How to educate children without resorting to punishment

How to educate children without resorting to punishment
Source: pixabay

Numerous studies have now shown it: punishments are ineffective. Not only do they cause emotional scars, but they have also been useless for educational purposes.

A child who is spanked or screamed at will likely stop misbehaving, but only out of fear and not because he has internalized what is right to do.

The pedagogist Daniele Novara explains in his latest book "Punishing is useless" that

children should not be terrified, but educated to grow up well. And to do this you need a good educational organization.

Read also: How to get children to obey without screaming (and why it's better)

To build it, parents have to take three steps backwards (points 1,2,3) and three steps forward (points 4,5,6):

1. Do not scream and do not punish

"The parent must realize that getting angry and reacting instinctively are elements of fragility and weakness, they do not induce a sense of authority in the children but only of disorientation, then having repercussions on a psychological level".

2. Maintain the educational distance: the children will feel closer to you

Too much confidence risks breaking down the distinction of role and putting the parent in a position of helpfulness that is not very useful for growth.

Today parents spend much more time with their children than in the past and yet feel guilty, especially working mothers. But being with them all weekend is more than enough.

Parents must be parents, not playmates, not lovers.

"In fact, excessive confidence can also lead to exaggerated fuss: from kisses on the mouth, to calling the child" love ", to making him sleep in the bed ... All actions that lead to mistaking the child for the partner. a case that divorces occur in greater numbers among couples with children "warns Novara, who adds: "for a healthy family balance, the parental couple must have their own spaces, in which the children must never enter".

3. Don't talk to him too much

Children must have clear and simple rules, for this it is useless to make speeches, to give an excess of explanations. For example, it is fair to say: "Before going to bed you have to brush your teeth. Like mom and dad do", while it is useless to explain the importance of oral hygiene to prevent cavities. Such a speech would not be understandable.

"The child needs educational clarity, he trusts his parents, he doesn't need to be continually explained why he has to do this. The paradox of our day is that parents tend to talk to small children as if they were grown-ups and at the same time treat adolescents as if they were small children. "

4. Play as a team

Mothers and fathers must share decisions regarding the education of their children. Parents must work out together what the rules are.

"Often mothers do not trust fathers and tend to cut them off, but this is extremely detrimental to the growth of the children."

The lack of agreement between two parents risks producing emotional tensions.

"The whims, in most cases are infantile behaviors that the child performs to induce the father and mother to come to an agreement".

To improve the teamwork of the parental couple, it is necessary to "reduce the words that are used with children and increase those that are addressed to the other parent".

To conclude: parents must first agree on important choices, and then communicate them to the child.

But be careful: only one of the two must speak. If things are repeated by both, it seems that the parents don't trust each other. If, on the other hand, only one communicates it, it is clear that the parents have already talked about it before.

This also applies to separate couples who have to find common agreements on the main issues.

5. Give good rules

First of all we need to define what a rule is: the rule is an organizational procedure, for example: bedtime, washing hands before meals, how much TV to watch ...

It must therefore be understandable and precise, no to excessive explanations; it must be age appropriate; it doesn't have to be a command (like: eat, sleep! ...); not a prohibition (prohibitions, eg: "you can't touch that!" are important, but they are good for small children, up to two or three years old); it doesn't have to be an exhortation to convince someone: "please", "come on".

Read also: Children, how to teach respect for the rules

The rules must be clear and simple. For example: "After dinner we read a story and then go to bed"; "from tonight you will learn to do the satchel by yourself"; "you can play with the tablet half an hour a day after finishing your homework".

The rules can only be negotiated with teenagers. There is no negotiation with children.

6. Stay in your place, your children can always find you there

The border between parents and children has now become very loose and Novara summarizes this situation with the expression: "the children on": all in the bathroom together, all in the Latvian, all playing ....

But if the border is broken, then it is not easy to recreate it when it is needed to give educational rules. Friendly parents are no longer authoritative and thus feel compelled to resort to threats and punishments to gain respect.

Novara also warns against kissing children on the mouth. "This is an engaged attitude: the lips represent an erogenous zone. So kissing children on the mouth contains a very confusing element and signals a sort of excessive sentimental symbiosis".

Keeping a proper distance from the children helps to implement good educational methodologies "avoiding ending up entangled in emotional traps and activating punitive modalities".

Furthermore educational distance is fundamental in the construction of autonomies. Hypercare prevents three years from walking alone without a stroller, five from going to the bathroom alone and cleaning up, and eight from preparing the satchel on their own.

The clear rules, agreed between parents, prevent parents from transforming themselves into assistants to their children instead of educators and from resorting to punitive methods to recover their role.

7. Active silence

Here is a technique that can work both with particularly "tyrannical" young children and with preteens or adolescents.

What is it about? It is a question of suspending verbal communication with the children. It should be implemented only in particularly serious situations, it must arouse a surprise in children who do not expect such a reaction from their parents.

For example, when faced with excessive behavior by a child, the parent can say "Mum and dad are amazed at what happened. This behavior is not good. Now they will be silent for a while to think about it."

Having said that, it is important not to react to the attitudes that may follow on the part of the child. The parent must not express anger. The time of silence can vary from age: a few minutes for small children, to a full day or even two for teenagers.
"The purpose of active silence is to lower emotional tension and prevent anger from spreading."

VIDEO: Punishments in children

In this video Daniele Novara explains why there is no need to punish children and how to be heard and obeyed without resorting to punishment, frustrating for children

Parents School

Daniele Novara is one of the organizers of the "Parent School" which every year organizes meetings on parenting issues around the country. And as part of these meetings on 21 and 24 October he will be in the city and in our city to talk about the book "Punishing is useless".

All the dates and locations of the Parent School can be found on the website:

Updated on 31.07.2022

  • how to educate a child
  • give rules to children
  • children education
  • to grow up
  • punishments
  • to punish
  • 3-5 children years
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