Does Punishment Teach?
Sarah, a second grader, missed recess for not putting her name on her paper.
John, a fifth grader, was in detention every day because his father would not sign his homework.
Cameron, a fifth grader, had to sit in the hall everyday during reading for not paying attention.
Does punishment teach? NO! Punishment generates guilt, defiance, embarrassment, humiliation, resentment, and severed relationships. The result of punishment is usually, “Why bother? I can’t please him/her anyway? Nothing I ever do is right. I give up. Why try? There is a better way.
Natasha was a first grader who always sat in the back of the room by herself. She was frequently off task and often in tears. Nothing seemed to work. Parents, teachers, and classmates were all frustrated with her complex emotional outbursts and constant need for attention.
A. The whole class always had to wait on her. She deliberately took forever to line
up and then wouldn’t walk with the class down the the hall.
B. She always spoke out in class and interrupted her classmates.
C. She was bossy so the other children didn’t like to play with her.
After a very difficult week, the student teacher was determined to find ways to help Natasha be successful. The first thing on Monday morning she told her she was frustrated and upset by all the issues they were having. “I told her I knew there was a smart, wonderful, and kind girl inside of her and that she was the only one who could make the decision to prove that to all of us. I gave her lots of praise and specific ways that I wanted to see her change.”
A. She was expected to line up quickly and stay with the class.
B. She was expected to raise her hand and wait her turn. (“I made sure to
validate this improvement by being sure to call on her!”)
C. After monitoring her conversations during play time, the student
teacher pulled her aside to show her how the interactions could have
After just one week, Natasha had the best week ever! It was the first week she earned a star every single day! Even her classmates noticed! Life was better for everybody.
Do your children have trouble with any of the following:
• Following directions?
• Thinking before they act?
• Solving conflicts?
• Using appropriate word to express their feelings?
• Interpreting the feelings of others?
• Adapting to change?
• Making friends?
• Showing empathy?
• Respecting personal space?
Greene, Ross (November 2008). Kids Do Well If They Can. Phi Delta Kappan. 160-167.
Instead of punishing them when they do it wrong, teach them how to do it right.
When they lack the skills to be successful, teach them.