The Spanking Mum: The purpose of punishment

If spanking has fallen down the rat hole of social unacceptability, it’s true to say that the entire concept of punishment is in danger of going the same way.

Much of the advice you will find online from child psychology ‘experts’ derides punishment as an outdated and/or misguided concept. Punishment, apparently, ‘does not work’.

Except that our social experience would tend to suggest otherwise.

Most of us do not drive our cars at 100mph around the local housing estate. Most of us do not steal from supermarkets when we go shopping.

Why? Because we have experience or at least knowledge of how our society works. If I break the speed limit, I will be fined and eventually banned from driving my car. If I steal from my local superstore, I will be prosecuted and perhaps even sent to prison.

Those examples amply demonstrate why punishment does indeed work. It is both a deterrent – most of us keep to the speed limit because we do not wish to be punished – and a protection, as a dangerous driver will eventually be taken off the roads altogether.

It seems to me that parenting is essentially a two-stage process. Firstly, you are caring for and protecting a young, inexperienced human being. Secondly, you are preparing the child to eventually take their place in society as a responsible, useful adult.

In order to do the latter, it’s inevitable that you will have to teach your children about rewards and punishments. If you work hard in your job, you may get a promotion and a pay increase. If you are lazy or incompetent, you will be fired.

That being the case, punishing children when they fail to meet the standards expected of them within the family (as a microcosm of wider society) seems to me to be perfectly reasonable and indeed a necessity.

So please don’t tell me punishment doesn’t work. It quite clearly does and even if it didn’t, in a way it wouldn’t really matter. Why? Because we are preparing our children for the wider world and out there (as Bruce Hornsby observed) that’s just the way it is – whether we like it or not.

Contributor: Louise. Originally published in her blog The Spanking Mum. Opinions expressed are solely those of the original author.