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Mark Allen
Director , Screenwriter , Composer
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Punishment as Commerce

I decided to write a little bit about why I don't believe in punishment.

It's hard to address the issue when it comes to crime and such because usually those types of problems could be addressed by the way we are treated by family growing up.  So, I'm going to talk about punishment when it comes to the family.

First off - Let me address the most obvious punishment - physical punishment: spanking, beating, belting and so on.  There are so many studies which show that beating children only leads to them beating other children, eventually their spouses, and even people they don't know, and certainly their own children.  Even with all this evidence I've been in a conversation with someone about this who defended his actions by saying "My father beat me and I turned out okay."  My thought - "You're a 200 pound man beating an 80 pound child.  If that is considered okay in your world, I would like to live somewhere else."  Simply put - you are teaching your child to respond violently to situations they do not like.

Let's get to the point of my blog - and explain what I mean by "Punishment as Commerce."

Psychological punishments:  Verbal abuse, Grounding, Rights Removals, and so on.

The theory is that you  punish your child for having done something wrong by taking away something they value so that the learn to not do it again.  However, if you look at the world - that really doesn't seem to work much.  In fact, the kids I knew growing up who were the most punished were the ones who caused the most trouble.

Are they born bad or have they simply learned a system of commerce?

If a child comes home late and they get grounded, they've learned "Coming home late = grounding."  Next time they are in a situation, they can evaluate that situation as such - "Is it worth being grounded to stay out late?"  Well, maybe it is.  That's commerce.

So - the parent decides to increase the punishment next time?  That's just inflation. 

What would the alternative be?

Responsibility from Respect.

What if a child did not do something simply because they felt a responsibility to the family.  This might seem impossible or abstract, so let's step out a little bit.

I had a conversation with some guys who had spent a little time in jail and while, for me, the entire idea of going to jail has a huge stigma.  For these particular guys - it was commerce.  They'd taken a chance doing something which had a potential cost - and they are paying their due now.  Literally "paying for the crime.""   We even say this in our daily lives, but we don't acknowledge that they have learned that our entire cultural system of punishment has been set up from an early age.  "Do the crime, do the time." - another popular phrase which supports the reinforcement that punishment is a system of commerce.

So - back to your typical family situation.  What if  being late carried a stigma.  It would help if the child understood why it mattered.  If the reason it matters is just because you want it to matter - then, you may be creating irrational situations which you might need to address separately.  But let's say they need to be home for a valid reason.  Even if that reason is a scheduled dinner with the family that mattered to the mother because she didn't get much time to spend with her kids and this was important to her - that's reason enough.  And if they are late, they are disrespecting the family.  But even that should be understood.

Would that work?  How?

As a child, I grew up mostly just with my mother and brother.  My mother went to school and worked to make sure that we could have opportunities in life and stay in a nice city.  I understood this even as a very young child.  So did my brother.  We both felt a responsibility to do our part.  But that feeling of responsibility came from a respect which my mother earned by her actions.  She didn't have to make us feel guilty (that's a form of verbal abuse) - she lived it.  This is true role modeling.  No punishment was necessary because we all had a common goal.

I am only sharing my personal situation to answer the question - can it work?  I have, however, met other people who did not have punishments and all of them had the same reactions.  There was never a system of commerce so there was never the question of "Should I be late and get grounded?" 

So - if you're a parent, or ever think you might want to be one.  Hopefully this made sense and will be considered.

about 15 years ago 0 likes  12 comments  0 shares
Photo 22991
mm...of course no one likes to be hit for punishment. There're 2 views i guess. Sensible talking and actions via role modeling seems to work the best, that's for nurturing parenting. However if the kids err seriously or are really insolent, sometimes they may deserve a bit of physical punishment. Why did the bible say Spare the Rod and Spoil the child? Guess this will spark a debate...In S'pore there's caning for rapists and i guess murderers...another debatable topic on does it deter? Perhaps more so as compared to other countries without?
about 15 years ago
Photo 22998
Just like for all my blogs, I'm never trying to say what people should do as much as present and idea to consider. I do judget physical abuse harshly - but otherwise I am saying simply "Have you ever noticed how....." or "Consider this correlation...." Interesting stories from everyone here.
about 15 years ago
Photo 22998
"is it better to be a friend or a parent ?" I think they are synonomous. I also think friends should be care takers of their friends. What I see a lot is parents who are people who have no power in their lives... they have lots of people who boss them around and then they turn around and boss their children around - like retribution. They don't realize it. But if you listen though the walls and at parks you hear the boss speaking right through the parent and to the child. There is a psychological term "identification with the opressor" which plays in here as well.... ...then as their kids become teenagers, they are done being bossed around and they have this idea - they can be independent - finally - and thus conflict. Often the parents will realize that they are losing control and at this point try to become their kids best friend because at this point - this is the only person who really pays attention to them and then... ...well... I could go on - but these are the kinds of lousy situations that emerge all the time.
almost 15 years ago

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April 13, 2007