Tag Archives: Claude Steiner



Punishment is not a dirty word. Punishment is not abuse. Moreover there are a few times in every child’s life when a smack on the bottom or a slap on the face makes a point that sticks. Do not stop reading now to send me hate mail. I am on your side.  I am on your child’s side. The trick is punishing at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reason.

Punishment has become a dirty word, not just in the parent advice circles, but in all power leading advice — parents are power leaders, but so are teachers, bosses, therapists, and management gurus.  Almost to a person the power leaders moan and groan about the horrors of punishment while elevating praise and listening to the height of the Ten Commandments.

Do not believe these experts who shout “Punishment does not work.”

They lie. Well, not really, because they believe they speak the truth. At least, I hope they believe their own words, for otherwise they have knowingly harmed thousands of parents and their children.

Nice when praise and listening work, and when it does, we should thank all the powers that be.  The fact remains, however,  that  anyone 100% responsible for raising even a slightly  rambunctious child knows praise does not always work and punishment is the better option.  Abuse should be the dirty word and indeed it can get you in big trouble with law, and  punishment should be seen just as another parenting tool

parent advice about punishing

Tip one: Begin early. Many other gurus try to shame me  saying punishment works.  When I mention punishing a toddler — the outrage grows.  So let me explain that one. Then rant at me if you want.

Jerome Kagan, my higher power of  how we become the nice or mean folk we become notes that shame – the emotion  keeping  us from doing the unthinkable –  appears spontaneously as a gift of nature at exactly the age when toddler can wreck damage on his two or three year old sisters toys.

The appearance of shame is nature’s way of keeping us from the sin of Cain – killing our sibling.  So parents have to help keep by punishing younger siblings and teaching them respect for others and other people’s property.

Robert Kegan,  like Kagan a Harvard professor, notes that a two to four year old essentially operates on the Might Makes Right Motto. ” If I do it, it is right. If I am kept from doing it is wrong.”  So those that say let little kids fight it out are actually creating bullies, but that is a topic for another day.

How to punish a toddler violating a sibling’s space and toys? Often it  is enough to move a pushy toddler to a different area of the room and give him a toy of his own to play with.   If doing that leads to struggle on the toddler’s part, punishment is warrented.  The punishment? Put the toddler in time out by taking him into your arms and holding him gently but firmly while saying “Not your toys.” over and over again until he relaxes which usually takes less then a minute.  Then put him down midst his toys, and say “Play with your own toys.”

The older sibling gets a time out if he messes with his younger brother’s toys without permission.  Only a few toys should be so sacred and untouchable.  A few activities should also be sacred, if a child has spent an hour building with blocks and the sibling wants to knock if down that should be stopped.

These toddler punishments teachs two important rules – respect others as you want to be respected  and respect property.

You cannot be teaching a child how to survive in the real world or survive yourself without punishing.  Anyone who disagrees needs his brain washed out a bit.

Tip two: Fit the punishment to the crime as much as possible.

Tip three:  Punishing only for violating the four big life rules:  Safety of self and others,  Respect of self and others, Respect for property, and Respect for Reasonable laws.

Tip four: Make sure the child knows what rule was broken.  Amazing how kids that are punished often don’t know what they are being punished for.

Tip five: Keep the love going.  Make praise and other good feeling things – what the Transactionlist Claude Steiner called the Warm Fuzzies out weighs the bad stuff or the Cold Pricklies. Five Warm Fuzzies for every Cold Prickly works best.

Tip six:  Forgive and seek forgiveness.  Don’t ask to be forgiven for properly punishing a child, but always seek it when you hurt a child accidentally or realize you over-punished — which we all do on occasion.

Tip seven: Know the difference between punishment and abuse. The law courts do. Go here to see  NYState’s  statutes regarding abuse.


Parenting is hard work. The don’t punish gurus have made it even harder.  Hopefully, the above tips and resources will help you teach your child what he needs to know to survive and thrive in the real world.


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