Expert says punishing children will not change their behaviour
Super Nanny Jo Frost famously made 'time out' the go-to punishment of choice for parents around the globe, but now researchers have deemed this – and other methods of behaviour correcting frequently used – completely and utterly pointless.
Oh, and don't think that just yelling at them when they act up or does something wrong is better – it is not.
In fact, according to a new study, motivation through punishment does not get your children to listen, and can actually end up doing more harm than good.
In a study involving electroconvulsive therapy, Professor Andreas Eder and his team encouraged the adult participants to complete a simple task after learning they would receive a slightly painful electric shock when pressing one of the two keys. When a number flashed up on a screen, they were asked to determine whether the number was greater than or lesser than five and communicate their decision by hitting the appropriate key.
Sounds simple enough. However, when participants hit the wrong key, they got zapped. Now, why would anyone deliberately do such a thing?
The researchers wondered the same thing and expected participants to press the key more slowly after learning of the electrifying consequences. But, it turns out, they were wrong. Not only did particpants push the pain-inducing key, they did so more quickly than before because they wanted to get it over with due to (scientists assumed) heightened arousal.
What this mean? Well, the researchers theorized that put simply, punishment alone does not stop undesirable behavior. If anything, it may have the reverse effect, which is why some kids will voluntarily "put themselves in timeout" whenever they do something wrong.
And while this study was indeed conducted on willing adults, there is no denying the findings are also of interest to parents of young (and older) children.
So what do to if you can't punish them for behaving badly? Well, how about taking a deep breath and explain why this or that is wrong or bad, and offer a clear alternative or solution – emphasizing that you know they have the knowledge and power to chose differently (better) the next time?