"Disobedience is not an issue if obedience is not the goal."

Daron Quinlan


“Rewards and punishment are two sides of the same coin...and that coin doesn’t buy very much.”

Alfie Kohn


"When a child hits a child,

we call it aggression.

When a child hits an adult,

we call it hostility.

When an adult hits an adult,

we call it assault.


When an adult hits a child,

we call it discipline." 

Haim Ginott


"Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other; on the contrary, they breed and reinforce each other."

Haim Ginott


"Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and freedom." 

Victor Frankl


“ ‘Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile’ mostly describes the behaviour of people who have hitherto been given only inches.”

Alfie Kohn, “Beyond Discipline”

Non-Punitive Discipline

Traditional behaviour management processes like time out, detention, writing lines, removal of toys, sticker charts and rewards for ‘good’ behaviour stem from the behaviourist movement based on the work of B. F. Skinner.  His theory asserts that children will behave in certain ways if they receive rewards (positive reinforcement) and that undesirable behaviour can be diminished by withholding the rewards or invoking pain (both of which are termed ‘punishment’).  At the core of this traditional approach are the beliefs that we can make others change, that rules govern behaviour and that conflict is bad.

Whilst the traditional forms of managing behaviour may work in the short term, they certainly don’t work in the long term.  When I worked in schools, I used to have detention duty once a week and every week I could guarantee the same children would be there time and time again.  Punitive measures do not provide a learning opportunity that allows children the autonomy to change their own behaviour.  How can children subjected to this model, be expected to learn major concepts about relationships, feelings, choices, etc when receiving an unnatural consequence inflicted on them by an adult?  Punishment simply misses the opportunity for a child to learn an important concept about themselves or others.

I often hear parents, completely frustrated, saying “they just don’t care when I take their toys off them”.  Punitive discipline simply harbours resentment, distrust, anger and disrespect.  Children who are disciplined in this way are more likely to seek revenge, become defiant or withdraw.  An eight year old boy told me recently that he couldn't say what he'd really like to say to his sister because he would get into trouble from his parents so he saves up the memories and feelings and when his parents aren't around he takes it all out on her then.

Parents or professionals that use or advocate punitive measures usually do so out of frustration or because they simply do not know what else to do.  Non-punitive discipline however believes that we can only ever really change ourselves, that relationships govern behaviour and that conflict is an opportunity for growth.  Children who feel empowered, respected, and connected; who feel capable of getting their needs met in an appropriate way and solving their own problems; and who feel good about themselves will consequently act better and internalize these values.

If you would like to learn more about non-punitive discipline check out our Parenting from the Inside Out series of workshops or Teaching from the Inside Out training for child professionals.  




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