Does Punishment Make Better Kids?


When we punish our kids, focus is only on winning the fight rather than teaching the child how to choose what’s right i.e. we become our child’s peer rather than the parent we ought to be. Harsh punishment now make the kids see us as yet another enemy to overcome.

A look at the negative side effects of harsh punishment, leave parent with no other option than to consider new strategies for controlling undesirable behaviors of their kids.

Difference Between Discipline & Physical Punishment

Discipline is said to be carried out on children when one is guiding their moral, emotional and physical development, as well as enabling them to take responsibility for themselves when they are older (Holden 2002, Wissow 2002). While physical or corporal punishment is the use of force to cause pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control (Straus and Stewart 1999).

How punishment in Psychology Works.

  • The person receiving the punishment defines it. You may think sending your kids to their bedroom is a punishment, but they consider it a reward.
  • Punishments that are too severe and too weak are both ineffective.
  • Consistent punishment is more effective than inconsistent punishment.
Related: The Effects of Praise

Corporal punishment can be effective at the very time the undesired behavior is being carried out, but its long term effect is not palatable. According to Elizabeth Gershoff who once conducted a metal-analysis on the use of corporal punishment,

It is effective in getting children to comply immediately while at the same time there is caution from child abuse researchers that corporal punishment by its nature can escalate into physical maltreatment.

Negative and Long-Term Effects of Corporal Punishment on a Child


  • Mental Health

Although, not often noticed at their early stage, but it raises serious concern. The development of internalizing problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation etc that were left untreated, can have lifelong effects. e.g. they are likely to grow up to abuse their own children.

Related: How to stop hating yourself
  • Reduces a child’s brain’s grey matter

 Spanking can reduce a child’s brain’s grey matter i.e. IQ, which is a crucial since it influences learning abilities – Psychology Today.

  • It results in a sort of behavioral constriction.

As a teacher, when you scold a child for giving wrong answer, the child is likely to stop the behavior which leads to being told he / she was wrong. That is, the child will never attempt to try any longer. This thereby kills the creativity in the child.

Read also: 4 Things You Should Never Tell Your Kids
  • Punishment often results in a mere suppression of the undesirable behavior.

As earlier explained, it’s ideal to discipline your child, only by guiding the moral and emotional development, rather than giving corporal punishment which can make the child to suspend the behavior for the mean time, and arrange for a better launch as soon as he/she is off your tent or finds a better space.


Ministry of Social Development, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

America Psychology Association, 750 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20002-4242 
Empowering Parents, Legacy Publishing Company.

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