01/20/2013 08:58 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2013

Punishment Doesn't Make Better Kids

I was on the phone and my son was nagging in my ear. I'd promised to get off shortly yet my conversation extended to an hour.

This was an important call, yet I had to hang up because he was pestering me.

I don't typically express frustration in an explosion of anger, but for some reason I couldn't hold back, something inside me snapped, and all good intentions went out the window.

Because I work in the parenting industry, and speak to parents every day about parenting from a space of non-reaction, I felt like a hypocrite. Here I am coaching moms to live in Zen, and then reacting like a maniac.

Even though I regret the way I reacted, this story has a happy ending, because something beautiful came out of my moment of insanity...

Our conversation went like this:

"I'm sorry I got upset and angry at you. I had no right to do that; I see that now and want to apologize."

Him: "Yes" (looking angry).

"How did it feel when I reacted, did you feel hurt and sad?"

Nodding his head and pulling a face.

"It must have been a shock to you when I got angry. And again, I apologize for that. I know it didn't feel good for you. I also want you to know that sometimes when you get really angry at me and say rude things that's how I feel, hurt and scared."

Oh. He looks calmer.

"Does this make sense?"


I saw a light in his eyes that he understood how it feels to be on the receiving end. The past few weeks we've been struggling with inconsideration and rudeness.

"Would you be willing to make more of an effort to be kind to me and I will do my best to not blow up again. Does this work?"

"OK sure."

"I love you and want you to know that what happened had nothing to do with you. I was angry at myself for not getting off the call when I should have, and I took it out on you, that's not OK to do that and I'm sorry."

Reading this, one might think a child deserves to be punished when naughty, or learn that certain actions have consequences.

Many of us hold the belief that if we don't take a stand and tell our children how to properly behave in the moment our children will turn into bad people or delinquent adults.

This just isn't true.

We need to guide our children, but guide them with love and not fear.

If we want our children to be empathetic and loving, we need to lead by example and with loving actions.

I'd like my son to understand that if he reacts at someone in anger he needs to take responsibility for his feelings and emotions in that moment. In that moment he has a choice to play the victim and blame others or take responsibility and move forward in a constructive way.

When I punish my son for being naughty it shows him that it's acceptable to blame others for our own emotions. It also says it's OK to put the responsibility elsewhere.

Teaching our children a lesson or punishing them doesn't get them to behave better or grow up to be a good person, punishment teaches that we don't need to take responsibility for our own feelings.

Nowadays with so much violence in the world we need to move beyond punishment into a space of healing and peace.

Peace begins in the home.