techniques for an older child
I am interested on your opinion on the use of discipline
techniques for an older child such as "diversion",
"consequences" and taking away items/toys as discipline.
Thank you for asking about this. Many parents understand that
spanking is harmful, but don't see that other forms of punishment are
harmful and ineffective too, and, just like spanking, interfere with the
bond between parent and child. Other parents understand this, yet wonder
what they should do instead.
All forms of punishment are harmful and ineffective over the long
term. This includes the ones you listed and all other kinds of
punishment, such as "time out", "grounding", removal
of privileges, and so on. All of these methods have much in common with
physical punishment, and all give the same messages: that the parent has
no interest in the underlying unmet needs that led to the behavior, and
that the parent is willing to take advantage of his greater size and
power over the child. Above all, they tell the child that the people he
has come to love and trust wish to cause him pain. This is a
"crazy-making" message, because it is so alien to the child's
intuitive understanding about what love should look like.
Finally, all of these approaches miss the best opportunities for
learning, because they sidetrack the child into fantasies of revenge,
where he is too distracted to focus on the real issue at hand. Real
alternatives to punishment are those that help the child to learn and to
grow in a healthy way. There are few greater joys in life than allowing
our child to teach us what love is.
To explore this further, see my article "Ten
Reasons not to Hit Your Kids", which could just as well have
been titled "Ten Reasons not to Punish Your Kids".
The only form of discipline that really works is gentle loving
guidance that respects the child fully and is consistent with the
Rule. My article "22
Alternatives to Punishment" describes effective approaches that
give the child only positive, loving messages.
I am convinced that punishment of all kinds is harmful, ineffective,
and dangerous, and such approaches as time-out and removal of privileges
are inevitably experienced as punishment by the child, regardless of the
parent's intentions. These approaches all have the same ramifications as
spanking: they weaken the bond between parent and child, they teach the
child a negative response to others' behavior, and, like spanking, they
can only be used during the years that the parent is able to maintain
physical and emotional control over the child.
My own experience raising a child without punishment is described in
my article "Confessions of a
Proud Mom". My article "Children:
Do We Get It?" may also be helpful.
Dr. Elliott Barker says it best (this was our "Quote
of the Month" for June 1999):
"Kids who have their needs met early by loving parents ... are
subjected totally and thoroughly to the most effective form of
'discipline' conceivable: they don't do what you don't want them to do
because they love you so much!
"If you haven't cluttered the airwaves between you and your
child with a thousand stupid 'don'ts' over your Royal Doulton china,
or not eating their dessert before the main course, or not finishing
their spinach, or not doing this or that, then those few situations
where it really matters because of safety and impropriety don't need
anything approaching the connotation of 'discipline' to ensure
- Dr. Elliott Barker,
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children