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NCFM Member Richard Driscoll, Ph.D. (Dr D), A Softer Approach to Punishments

June 4, 2013

punishmentsA Softer Approach to Punishments

by Richard Driscoll, Ph.D. (Dr D)

Punishment has a harsh reputation, and can easily produce lingering bitterness. Suppose typical teenager Sally is required to do her homework before dinner, so she can make it to bed at a reasonable hour and rise for school the next day.

Suppose also that dinner rolls around and Sally (you guessed it) has played around all afternoon on her cell phone and has not even started her homework. Mom and Dad have been through this before, and by now they are frustrated and angry. Mom takes the cell phone away from Sally, for a week, and dad backs her up. Sally feels that her parents are oh so unreasonable, and she turns sullen and goes up to her room, closes the door, and stays there.

From here, things only get worse. Mom wonders if she has been too strict, and wants to return the phone but feels she cannot go back on her word. Sally feels her parents are being mean and are making her miserable, so she does what she can to make her parents as miserable as they are making her.

Typical parents want their teenager to be happy, and safe, so chances are that mom will give in and Sally will get her phone back before the week is out. And then next week, they will play out the same scenario all over again.

I am sure we would all like our children to be cooperative citizens who behave themselves and get along well with everyone. We want to appreciate them, compliment them for their good work, and only occasionally send them to their rooms for a few minutes to take care of the minor misbehaviors. Punishment would have little or no place in our ideal houses of harmony.

Unfortunately, children have their own agendas. Children talk back, sass us, and ignore our simple requests. Amid the chaos, it is easy to turn from appreciating our youngsters to punishing their misconduct.

I offer here a few principles for reasonable punishments, that improve the situations and do not blow up in our faces.

Punishments work best which

• are no harsher than absolutely necessary

• are over as quickly as possible

• allow the youngster an easy way out of the punishment, by simply complying.

So what penalty should mom and dad impose on Sally? For starters, a week without the cell phone is seriously too long. We might take away the cell phone for the evening, and return it the next day. Or better yet, we could confiscate the phone and agree to return it as soon as Sally has her homework finished. So on any given day, beginning now, Sally can keep her phone by buckling down on her homework.

Furthermore, Sally should be able to figure out that her parents are being almost reasonable in their extraordinarily mild punishments. So she is more apt to take the penalty with only a few objections, and to get over it without the usual bitterness.

A single incident is not enough to solve the problem. The next time Sally blows off her homework, the parents impose the same penalty again, and so it goes. Sally gradually figures out that she can win at this new arrangement by doing the homework, or she can continue to lose her phone, one afternoon at a time. But why would she want to do that?

We should all remember that punishments need not be harsh to work, and that a lighter touch often produces better results. And briefer penalties allow us to put the punishment behind us and to go back to being friends again.

Try it out.


Softer punishments better for children. Lesson for single and intact parents.

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4 Responses to NCFM Member Richard Driscoll, Ph.D. (Dr D), A Softer Approach to Punishments

  1. Richard Driscoll on January 7, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Perhaps this can help clarify my point.

  2. adgray on June 14, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    First off after spending a career in Lawenforcement, I see Dr. Driscoll aiding these parents into what is called setting a child up to fail in life. If we were to follow his example, then we as parents are teaching our kids there is an easy way out for all their troubles, whether criminal, civil, or personal. I see this as the problem with society, we, the baby boomers were taught right from wrong, and we suffered the consiquences if we crossed the line…we paid the price…..and this had no affect on our love or devotion to our parents, as we grow we realize they only want the best for us………ever wonder why we have such repeat offender stats here in the US….well there is no reform, in the household or in the prison system any longer due to these Liberal points of view……we have to make a change…and it needs to be soon!

  3. Benjamin on June 6, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    How did you get on here?

    • NCFM on June 6, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Dr. Driscoll is a member of NCFM. He sent the article to us for posting, which we did. If you are interested in having something considered for posting please join NCFM, then you can submit articles to ncfm . ncfm . org.

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