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Never punish kids? Here’s why, according to our parenting expert, and what to do instead…

It’s actually a better parenting strategy to never punish kids.

Calm, cool, and collected. Those probably aren’t the words you would use to describe yourself after your child misbehaves. Instead, it’s often our first instinct to punish and revoke privileges.

Studio 5 Parenting Contributor Heather Johnson is pushing for parents to avoid the power struggle because she believes punishment is an ineffective form of discipline.

We know what you’re thinking… if I don’t punish, will my kid learn their lesson? To that, Heather says absolutely. It’s okay to discipline, just don’t punish in the process.

“Of course, there will be discipline,” Heather explains, “Of course, there are consequences. But punishment doesn’t teach them anything and it doesn’t build relationships.”


Why to Never Punish Kids, and What to Do Instead

Punishment vs. Discipline

“It’s one of the biggest mistake parents make,” Heather explains, “We think that if we aren’t punishing, we’re giving into everything, saying yes to everything. But that’s not the opposite of punishment.”

Heather says that punishment, driven by our own emotions and the desire for quick results, is often thoughtless and counterproductive. Instead, she advocates for discipline, which involves teaching and considering consequences thoughtfully. Discipline aims to build understanding and foster a long-term perspective.

It’s less about the action and more about the reaction. When a parent properly disciplines, they pause to consider their tone of voice, their words, their intentions, and the child’s needs and wants before responding.

Punishment is temporary in nature and lacks long-term benefits. Quick results may be achieved, but the child fails to learn essential skills to navigate their emotions in the future. Plus, punishment can damage the parent-child relationship by instilling fear instead of respect.

“It’s the relationship that actually keeps us connected, it isn’t the punishment,” says Heather.

So what should parents do instead?

Understand Your Role

Heather emphasizes that a parent’s primary role is to love and teach their children.

“No where in your job description does it say your job is to punish your kids. Our job is to understand them”, Heather explains. “When your child misbehaves, take the time to teach them, love them, and understand them. That’s how they’ll learn long-term.”

Set Clear Boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial, but Heather highlights that it’s about the parent’s boundaries, not the child’s.

“Boundaries don’t require anything of another person. Boundaries are what I’m going to do and how I’m going to handle something,” Heather explains. “And once you communicate your boundaries with your kids, take time to connect and relate. Like – ‘I know that that’s hard. I know that you don’t want to do that.’ But still set those boundaries regardless.”

Be a Loud Example

Parents should openly express their own frustrations, joys, and challenges, allowing children to witness the process of handling emotions constructively. This “loud” example teaches children how to navigate their feelings constructively.

“There’s nothing wrong with your kid hearing you say, ‘I am really frustrated, and I know I need to figure out a healthy way to navigate my frustration’. Say it. Let them hear you work through and process your emotions,” Heather says.

Individualized Parenting

Heather acknowledges the need for individualized parenting, considering each child’s unique temperament and the parent’s response to them. But no matter the child, parents can reach for thoughtful, connective disciple over reactive punishment.

To contact Heather for counseling, email, or visit

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