Offering an education without punishment and prizes for good behavior is a challenge and dream of many parents. For decades, a lot of us were raised in that way, based on physical and psychological punishment. Today, although this practice may seem less harsh, spanking on time-outs have been replaced by “thinking chairs” or removal of privileges such as screen time. However, we know that, in the end, the aim is the same: to make the child feel guilty or ashamed for what they did.
This coercive educational pattern needs to be broken if the parents’ intention is to discipline with love and respect for their children. For parents and adults can use their experience to protect and care for their little ones, but not to punish.
The difference between punitive education and nonviolent education
The author of Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg talks about the importance of showing parents the difference between being protective and being punitive in order to discipline children. Punishment is totally linked to the moralizing judgment about the other, it is based on the belief that the human being is a sinner and that one can only be guided to the right path through penance. As if it were necessary to show, how much people disapprove of them for having done what they did and, in this way, making them suffer – the opposite of the values of Nonviolent Communication, that believes it is not just because a person made a mistake, that one will think they are bad and deserve to be punished.
Nonviolent Communication seeks to know what is necessary for the situation to be resolved and how to deal with it. This without pointing out guilt or victims, without the dichotomy of good and evil, which makes us see the other as an enemy. Wars are a good example that shows us, where this dichotomous thinking leads to.
Nonviolent Communication is not driven to harm others as a form of punishment, but to protect everyone’s needs. At first, it may even be that you use a little of force as the educational end, to later have a more communicative approach, but only in extreme cases. However, it is necessary to know how to differentiate the purpose of teaching, which discipline is all about, from that of punishment. But how? Analyzing our thinking regarding the use of our coercive force to solve the problem.
It is important for parents to understand that although punishment causes the child to obey them, it causes resentment, anger and a desire for revenge, rather than making them rethink what they have done. The child obeys simply because they feel obligated. The reward also works, but in the same way, the child will hardly understand that they need to change their behavior. On the contrary, they will most likely always expect something in return by having a good behavior.
The famous Montessori methodology also follows this thought of educating respectfully, which focuses on autonomy, independence and cultivates the child’s self-esteem, without using punishments and rewards to educate.
But how to do that?
When disciplining a child, it is important for them to be part of a nurturing environment that makes them understand that what they did “wrong” can be done in another way. It is important to have opportunities for real experiences, even allowing them to work on their creativity from early on in their childhood.
Let the child have the freedom they need to make mistakes and learn from them, because then they will understand the natural consequences of their actions, without feeling obliged to do something to please someone or expect something in return, but just understand that it is the natural path of life.
For example: if the child is late for dinner at night, the parents can warn them that by doing so, they may not have time to have a bath and will have to take a shower instead, or no time for screen time or hear that long story because they will have to go to sleep soon.
Prioritizing a non-violent education has other benefits such as:
- Stimulating skills: the child has the opportunity to learn from real experiences, they have more freedom and encouragement to develop their own skills;
- The child is motivated and develops discipline on their own: by making their own decisions, in addition to becoming independent, the child will be motivated to go after what they want, as well as having more discipline to perform tasks;
- Satisfaction: they know what they are capable of since they achieve what they want on their own and thus feel proud of themselves.
- Improved self-esteem: children who are independent and have their own achievements, have more self-esteem;
- Sense of cooperation: when the child understands the meaning of what and why they are doing, they tend to cooperate more for things to happen.
Although it may seem very challenging to put nonviolent discipline into practice, parents who choose to give their children a more respectful upbringing, quickly see the results, and improvement in the relationship between parents and children.