punishments are not good for kids

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Inside: We were used to thinking that punishments are the “standard” way to discipline a child. But what if punishments are not good for kids? Here are 7 long-term negative effects that every parent needs to know.

punishments are not good for kids

The fact that we raise our child without punishments or time-outs is something that almost always surprises people. And the truth is that this is not the way parenting looked like when we were kids!

Most of us grew up thinking that punishments or time-outs are a normal part of parenting and they are the only way to discipline kids. We were used to thinking that this is the norm and it’s hard to question an approach that we have witnessed so many times.

Even before becoming a mom I knew I wanted to be a gentle parent. But I was afraid that being gentle and not using “traditional” discipline will make me a bad parent. That my child will not learn how to behave. That I won’t be able to teach him right from wrong. Or that he will never listen to me if I’m not a strict parent.

My heart was telling me that love and guidance are enough, but in my mind, there were still fears and doubts. Then my son was born and those long sleepless nights started.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed, and I was afraid that I’m doing everything wrong. There were just normal new mom fears, but at that moment they seemed very real! One night, as I was walking through the house with my son in my arms because he couldn’t fall asleep, I looked at him, and the answer to all my doubts was right there.

I realized that if at that moment when I was completely exhausted I had no doubts in offering my whole love and attention to my child, I should never doubt that love is enough. I decided that I can be the gentle mom that I wanted to be. I let go of doubts and promised myself that I’d do my best to raise my child the way I felt was right, without any of the “traditional” discipline methods that never seemed right to me.

This is how I discovered positive discipline. And it was exactly what I needed! I loved all the helpful disciplining tips and tools that I discovered, and they made a huge difference in my parenting journey.

Over the years, positive discipline proved me that I was not wrong in believing that there is a better way to raise kids than the “traditional” methods we were used too.

This is why I’m always encouraging other moms to try it! I know it works and I hope that sharing my positive parenting journey and everything I learn along the way will help other parents too!

What if punishments are not good for kids?

For me, the best motivation to use positive discipline (even when this is very hard and requires a lot of patience) is knowing that punishments are not good for kids.

I know that there are plenty of books and articles that recommend them but research shows that they are not beneficial for kids. On the contrary, they have negative effects in the long run.

punishments are not good for kids

I’ve gathered here some of the most powerful reasons why punishments are not good for kids because they prove not only that punishments are not effective but also show that they do more harm than good.

1. Punishments don’t teach kids valuable lessons.

Kids who are punished will be more worried about avoiding punishments than about doing the right thing. If the parent is not watching they won’t necessarily do the right thing because there is no punishment to worry about.

Punishments don’t give parents the chance to build an internal motivation for doing the right thing. Children need to have that motivation in order to make the right choice in situations when the parent is not present. Otherwise, they will be more likely to do the right thing only when an external motivation (like a punishment or reward) is present.

“Our job as parents is bigger than teaching kids to be scared so they don’t do the wrong thing.  Our job is to teach kids to WANT to do the right thing.” (Dr. Laura Markham)

2. Children who are punished often are more likely to lie.

If you ever were punished as a child, think about those moments. What were you thinking when you were punished? Were you regretting what you did and thinking about ways to improve your behavior? Or were you thinking how to avoid punishment the next time by hiding what you did from your parents?

Children who are worried that they will get punished are more likely to hide things from their parents or lie because they want to avoid the punishments. In time this affects the parent-child relationship and can lead to lack of trust and communication issues.

3. Kids who are often punished have less control of their emotions.

Often children misbehave because they are not able to handle their strong emotions. They need the parent’s guidance to learn how to act better when they feel angry or upset.

Punishments don’t help them deal with their emotions. On the contrary, they add even more frustration and anger. This is why children who are often punished tend to become angrier and have even more issues with handling their emotions.

“Punishment cheats children out of the help they need to manage their emotions.  It adds an overlay of shame and guilt that will only make them act worse. It models acting from fear instead of acting from love. It models using force instead of compassion. It models hurting another instead of managing our own emotions.” (Dr. Laura Markham)

4. Punishments make kids more likely to use violence to solve their own problems.

Children learn from what they live. If they see parents use force to deal with a problem, they will probably do the same. This is why kids who are often punished will be more likely to display aggressive behavior towards other kids.

5. Punishments lower the child’s self-esteem

Children who are often punished get to feel bad about themselves. This causes a vicious cycle that only brings more problems.

Kids who think that they are bad persons are more likely to repeat the negative behavior. This brings more punishments and a worse image about themselves.

punishments are not good for kids

6. Kids who are often punished become less empathetic and more self-centered

Punishments make the child focus on the consequences they are facing for their behavior. This steals them the opportunity to notice the consequences that their behavior has on other people. So they will be less likely to show empathy and compassion because they are more concerned with what will happen to them.

Punishments are more likely to make kids blame others, rather than caring about other people’s feelings.

7. Punishments affect the relationship between the parent and the child

This is such a powerful reason to avoid punishments! They always erode the relationship because the child feels misunderstood, wronged, even angry at the parent. This makes them feel more disconnected from the parent and less invested in following the parent’s guidance.

It’s a vicious cycle that leads to even more negative behaviors and more punishments. In time, the child will hide more things from the parent, lie more often, have less trust. And I’m sure that this is something that no parent wants for their kids!


Anytime when I write about the negative effects of traditional discipline, I am afraid that some parents might see my articles as an intend to criticize their parenting or make them feel guilty for choosing a different approach than mine.

And I want you to know that this is not the case. As a parent, I make plenty of mistakes. I’m very far from being a perfect mom, and I would never want someone to read one of my articles and feel bad about themselves.

The only reason why I write all these articles is that I believe in the power of positive parenting and I want to share everything that helped me along my parenting journey.

So if you use punishments with your child, this article is not meant to criticize your parenting. It’s just about offering another perspective on discipline. If anything that I wrote resonated with you, I hope that this article will be a good motivation for finding alternative methods for disciplining your child.

It’s never too late to try different ways to parent. And even a small change can make a big difference for both you and your child.

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We were used to thinking that punishments are the "standard" way to discipline a child. But what if punishments are not good for kids? Discover 7 powerful reasons why punishments are not effective and will only harm your child in the long run. --- Alternatives to punishments | Child discipline | Positive discipline | Gentle parenting tips | Positive parenting #GentleParenting #ParentingTips

What if punishments are not good for kids? Check out this list of long-term negative effects of punishments that every parent needs to know! --- Alternatives to punishments | Child discipline | Positive discipline | Gentle parenting tips | Positive parenting #GentleParenting #ParentingTips

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3 Comments

  1. I am a retired teacher and I would very much like parents and teachers to understand this speech and stop “educating” using punishments. But how can we do? I realize that unfortunately changing the educational style compared to that lived as children and also as students is really difficult! More difficult than climbing the Himalayas. This thing puts me really sad!

    1. You are right, Paola, it’s very hard to change old mentalities! But I hope that change will slowly happen and the new generation will grow up in a world with more love and understanding and fewer punishments and threats!
      And I truly hope that there will be more teachers like you, who support gentle education and positive discipline!

  2. These are just the articles I’ve been looking for !! When I was pregnant and talked about the type of parent I wanted to be my friends and especially family didn’t understand and swore it wouldn’t work . At the time I hadn’t even heard of “gentle parenting “ but I knew there had to be better ways of teaching things than the past ways for the sake of our kids futures. My daughter’s 2 now and I’m still learning as I go, but so far so good (for the most part lol). I honestly cannot wait to try out some of these tips . Thank you for sharing them.