It All Starts when We Punish our Kids, #2

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What “all starts?” Well . . .

  1. Violence.

This hasn’t changed, despite what we like to think: punishment is violence. All punishment is ultimately physical. Even if in a particular instance a child can be punished without force, if a child is convinced to “take his medicine” in the form of a “timeout” or a grounding, or the loss of a privilege, this punishment is still backed up and made possible only by force and/or violence; the child has learned from past experience that he must accept his non-corporal punishment or see things escalate. Most likely, the child has learned this very young indeed, as a baby and/or toddler, when he is pre-verbal and there really are no non-corporal options.


Every instance of punishing models the use of negative stimulus as a way for the parents to get what they want – the very definition of violence and coercion. Plus, actions really do speak louder than words, and so this is what is modelled, despite how often the intended lesson is to discourage that very thing, violence. “Bullying” is the unauthorised version of this very behaviour: making someone’s life worse because they do something you don’t like. Nearly all forms of violence follow this model and the differences are mostly only in the degree of the violence. The difference between “discipline” and abuse is often only a matter of the degree: the principle is the same. Most folks don’t think you shouldn’t hurt a child. Mostly we only think we shouldn’t hurt a child “too much.”

Here’s the rest of the series:

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