When Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish ask this question in a group of parents the answers they get are along the lines of :
"If you don't punish them, kids will try to get away with murder."
"Sometimes I get so frustrated, I don't know what else to do."
"How will my child learn that what he did was wrong and not to do it again if I don't punish him?"
"I punish my son because it's the only thing he understands."
Then when parents are asked to remember their own feelings when they were punished, the following responses are given:
"I used to hate my mother. I'd think, 'She's such a bitch,' and then I'd feel so guilty."
"I used to think, 'My father's right. I am bad. I deserve to be punished.' "
"I used to fantasize that I'd get sick and then they'd be sorry for what they did to me."
"I remember thinking, 'They're so mean. I'll fix them. I'll do it again, only next time I won't get caught.' "
Dr Ginott says that "...the problem with punishment was that it didn't work, that it was a distraction, that instead of the child feeling sorry for what he has done and thinking about how he can make amends, he becomes preoccupied with revenge fantasies. In other words, by punishing a child, we actually deprive him of the very important inner process of facing his own misbehavior."
All of this is written on pages 92 and 93 of How To Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I love this book, so full of practical help and examples. I do get angry in the moment but I don't really have the heart for punishment. I can't sustain the indignation. Once I'm over whatever it is, I'm too soft to keep the punishment going.
Today: Success! but it's a bit of a cheat's day today. I let Charlie watch TV on weekends and "packing days" (days that I'm packing for a trip and trying to tidy the house before we leave) and today was a packing day. We are now in Perth for a family wedding and there weren't any times today when I wanted to yell at Charlie. Though that was easy because he was happy watching Chuggington for most of the day and not underfoot.
The photo above was taken last week. That is permanent marker on the denim quilt I took years to finish. I didn't yell. I'm over it now. Do you like the way Charlie is pointing with his middle finger?!