Parenting expert warns against punishing children

A parenting expert has warned against punishing children – claiming it doesn’t work. 

Sarah Ockwell-Smith – a well-known parenting author – says forcing children to have time out, taking things away from them or grounding them is ineffective.

She says the belief that children will only learn if we make them ‘feel bad’ first is a ‘gross misconception’.

Uploading a lengthy post on her Facebook page, Sarah told parents punishments ‘never work’.

She said:

‘When a child behaves in ways adults don’t like; the common advice is that they need to be punished in some way (by excluding them – time out, isolation from their peers, or sending to their room. 

‘Or taking away something they like – from toys to their actual freedom). The punishment is meant to motivate the child to behave better. 

‘When in your life have you ever been self-motivated to learn a new skill or behaviour because the threat of punishment was hanging over you? 

‘We learn best when we WANT to, or when the drive for improvement comes from within us….and when those in authority inspire us to be better (and equip us with the skills to do so). 

‘Punishment NEVER helps a child to regulate their behaviour, it doesn’t teach them the skills they are lacking, it doesn’t help them to control themselves and it certainly doesn’t inspire them. All it really teaches them is to lie more effectively and to not get caught next time.’

Sarah then went on to tell parents what they could do as an alternative to punishments.

She said: 

‘If we want kids to behave better we have to always start with understanding why they behaved in a way we don’t like. 

‘We have to understand how they feel and we have to equip them with the skills they need to change. Most of all we need to inspire them to change, by showing them how to be respectful and kind ourselves.

‘It’s not rocket science is it?’

Her post was met with a mixed reaction from parents.

Many agreed with what Sarah was saying.

One said: ‘Totally true. I remember being punished and pushing the control. I used to tell my mum to extend the punishment time which she did and it made no effect on me.’

Another said: ‘Great explanation! Thats the way I favour and apply in helping my daughter to develop her personality!’

But there were critics, too.

One said: ‘Many a young murderers parents say “but I gave him everything, never punished him, only ever gave love… where did he get this anger and hate?”‘

Another added: ‘Pretty sure this is what adult life is. 

‘Follow the law, or be punished with a fine (Taking away the equivalent of toys) or go to jail (timeout).’