Top 3 Reasons I Reject Punishment
1) I value Kindness. Punishment is not kind.
Here is Bings definition of Kind:
Definition of kind
[ kīnd ]
Some might argue that it is kind to punish. They say that they are teaching their children valuable life lessons when they punish. I do not agree with this line of reasoning for two reasons. One, I think that we are fooling ourselves when we classify punishment as "kind" in this way. If something doesn't FEEL kind, then it's not. Children are not experiencing punishment as kindness even if parents try to convince themselves it is necessary. And second, I believe that often the "lessons" children are learning are not the same ones that parents are attempting to "teach" when punishing. When we don't feel good our brains are not receptive to learning. When we feel disconnected from loved ones that is all that we can focus on. If children are expressing (or worse, feeling but repressing the expression of) hurt, anger, or resentment they CANNOT focus on anything else - including the "why" of the punishment and what the parent hopes they learn.
2) Our family relationships are not supported by punishment. Punishment fosters disconnection. This is the opposite of what I want in our family. When we are connected everything else flows. I am convinced that connection is at the core of all things good in life. Pursue connection and your life will transform.
3) My goals are not effectively achieved with punishment (aka Punishment does not work.)
I know many will argue this point and some may want "proof" of my assertion. First you need to identify what your goals are. If your goals are obedience, "training", changing behaviors, or compliance - then punishment may work for you. My goals however are connected relationships, open, honest communication, learning to live peacefully together and with others, and kindness internalized. I see more clearly all the time how these are NOT supported by punishment.
I made this graphic last night and it explains my philosophy on punishment and why I choose a different path. More and more I believe that our choices are rooted in either fear or love, connection or disconnection. It is up to us make a conscious choice of which cycle dominates our life. Life will always flow between these two forces (infinitely!) And of course none of us will be "perfect" in our striving for love and connection. These two cycles are always connected and it is in our control to flow between them. On the left you can see the punishment cycle, contracting inwards. I choose to try and stay on the right side - connection is at it's core and it expands outwards with internal intuitiveness, honest communication, trust, forgiveness, problem solving, partnership, and of course - love. This cycle expand us, nurtures our relationships and gently stretches us. It is a place of growth, not perfection (hence forgiveness is necessary!)
Making this graphic was so significant for me - even as I made it new levels of symbolism revealed themselves to me. I wanted the punishment side to spiral in (contract) so I wrote the words backwards and on the counterclockwise side of the infinity sign. It was much more difficult to write these words - and I find that life IS easier without punishment (I can expand on this idea later) Also, because the words are backwards, it is easiest to read the words by looking in the mirror. When I held it up to the mirror, suddenly the words were clear and easy to read: PUNISHMENT, Fear, Shame, distrust, sneakiness, external motivation, and disconnection at the center. I believe when parents take an honest look at themselves, in their literal or figurative mirror, they too will see what punishment is doing to their children and their relationships.
Again, I want to reiterate that none of us are perfect. That is why I find it significant that these two cycles are connected. But the good news is that we can choose to jump on or off whichever side we want to when we are ready!
Also, living without punishment does not mean ill-behaved, inconsiderate, children who can do whatever they want. We are so used to living with punishment that we are unable to imagine life without it or what it might look like. Sometimes the best way to see is to start living it, today. It takes time but it is worth it. And once you feel the difference you won't want to go back.
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.