Does Too Much Harsh Disciplining Cause Suffering?

Does Too Much Harsh Disciplining Cause Suffering?

Child discipline is arguably the most unpleasant aspect of parenting. It could be tiring, stressful, and disheartening. It is one of the most prevalent and difficult difficulties of motherhood. But there is a distinction to be made between discipline and punishment (fear conditioning).

Have you ever considered the following:

“How can we discipline children without resorting to punishment (fear conditioning)?”

As it turns out, employing punishment (fear conditioning) to discipline a child is not the only nor the best approach to do it.

In this article, we shall examine why these disciplinary tactics are ineffective.

We’ll also look at four successful methods for disciplining children:

children’s behaviour, character development, mental health protection, and assisting you in developing a strong relationship with them

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Punishment vs. Discipline

Discipline is the activity of teaching someone to follow rules or a code of behaviour in order for them to adopt desired future behaviour. Punishment is the infliction of pain on someone as a result of their previous actions.

Many individuals use the terms “discipline” and “punishment (fear conditioning)” interchangeably.

However, they are not synonymous. Discipline and punishment (fear conditioning) are not synonymous.

Discipulus is derived from the Latin words disciplina (teaching, learning, or instruction) and disciplina (teaching, learning, or instruction) (disciple, student).

Discipline is synonymous with teaching. To teach means to demonstrate and explain how to do something. It is not necessary to punish in order to teach.

However, the distinction between punishment (fear conditioning) and discipline extends beyond the literal definition of the words.

There is also a difference in how the brain of a kid reacts to them.

Punishment is not only morally repugnant. It is truly detrimental to the brain.

Parents, don’t we want our children to have healthy brains?

So keep reading to find out why and how punishment (fear conditioning) is terrible for our children’s brains, as well as what to do to discipline them.

Discipline vs Punishment: The Science of Discipline

Ivan Pavlov (classical conditioning) (classical conditioning), a Russian scientist, behavioured a renowned classical conditioning experiment.

When a dog was being fed, it salivated.

So Pavlov (classical conditioning) devised an experiment. He also rang a bell whenever he fed his dogs. He rang the bell on its own after several repetitions of this technique.

The dog’s salivation increased when the bell was rung on its own.

This experiment demonstrated that the dog had learnt to link the bell with food, resulting in the formation of a new habit. This is referred to as classical conditioning. The bell began as a neutral stimulus but later evolved into a conditioned stimulus. Salivation was a learned reaction.

Based on this finding, it appears reasonable to assume that if a negative consequence is linked with an undesirable action, a dog, or even a kid, would ultimately learn to adopt the desired behaviour instead owing to the dread of the negative consequence.

Doesn’t it sound good?

But wait a minute… does this idea also apply to human children?

Yes, indeed… But there’s more to it than that.

It has to do with the human brain, as you may have guessed.

The Human Mind

Neurologists think that the human brain is divided into three areas.

The three brain areas are as follows:

  • Reptilian brain: Without our conscious effort, the reptilian brain governs body systems such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion, fight or flight reflex, and other survival functions.
  • Mammalian brain: The mammalian brain, often known as the emotional brain, is in charge of powerful emotions such as fear, wrath, separation anxiety (see strange situation), caring, nurturing, and so on.
  • Human brain: The human brain, often known as the thinking brain, is the location of learning, reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and complex thinking.

So the distinction between discipline and punishment (fear conditioning) is as follows:

Discipline activates the cognitive brain, while

Punishment has an effect on the emotional brain.

The Brain And Fear

How do our brains respond to fear?

Assume you’re hiking in the wilderness when a huge beast appears in front of you. What would you do in this situation?

If you’re like most people, you’d take a step back without even thinking about it.

When you get a closer look, you see it’s just a lively and friendly dog. So you unwind after making this intentional decision.

What happens in your brain is as follows:

Danger sets off an alert (and causes fear) in our emotional brain without first passing via the reasoning brain.

Because you can’t afford to ponder while you’re in danger!

Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released to prepare the body to fight back or to run away (or jump back) fast.

This is known as the fight-or-flight response.

All of this occurs automatically, without our having to think about what to do next. This process is critical to human survival.

Do you get it?

Let’s put it all together now.

The Brain and Punishment

Punishment is a form of coercive discipline based on fear.
And constant dread is bad for the brain.

Here’s the deal:

  • Young children, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, are inquisitive.
  • They are both ambitious and brave.
  • They don’t, however, know anything about safety.
  • They are perplexed as to why they are supposed to behave in a specific manner.
  • And they don’t always follow the logic.

As a result, many parents turn to fear or coercive tactics such as physical punishment (fear conditioning), time-out, or berating to discipline their children.

Children frequently get into mischief, and as a result, children in these households are frequently intimidated by the possibility of punishment (fear conditioning).

It is important to note that fear could be caused by more than simply punishments. The prospect of punishment (fear conditioning) can also make children fearful.

These parents believe that fear will condition their children to leave the unwanted behaviour and embrace the desired one, similar to how a dog could be trained to adopt a new habit. This is known as operant conditioning.

However, the truth is:

Frequent worry may wreak havoc on a childrens brain in a variety of surprising ways.

Punishment Can Result In Mental Disorders

When the fight-or-flight response is activated, the emotional brain takes charge while the cognitive brain is turned off.

A unique memory is formed and kept separately from regular memory if the experience is life-threatening or generates great dread.

This sort of particular memory is imprinted in our brain and makes us unhappy in order for us to avoid it in the future.

As a result, fear can train us to modify our behaviour.

So, here’s the issue.

Later in adulthood, this sort of fear-conditioned memory is what underpins mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Because the formation of this unique memory (and its recall) does not require permission from our thinking brain, it is difficult to prevent negative mental repercussions.
Being brutally reprimanded may not look to parents to be a life-or-death scenario that might cause extreme anxiety.

We could be able to recover quickly if we are struck or screamed at.

We can rant to friends, divert our attention with other activities, or just quit seeing that individual.

Our world is brimming with possibilities.

However, for children, particularly younger ones, their parents are their whole universe. Parents are the primary or single suppliers of food, safety, and all other requirements for their children.

When it comes to picking their own caretaker, children have no say.

It’s all about survival. It’s a matter of life and death.

And, let us not forget, from the perspective of a child, people seem physically enormous, almost like giants.

Harsh treatment by caregivers may and frequently does feel life-threatening to children.

Punishment Can Release The Stress Hormone

However, for children, particularly younger ones, their parents are their whole universe. Parents are the primary or single suppliers of food, safety, and all other requirements for their children.

When it comes to picking their own caretaker, children have no say.

It’s all about survival. It’s a matter of life and death.

And, let us not forget, from the perspective of a child, people seem physically enormous, almost like giants.

Harsh treatment by caregivers may and frequently does feel life-threatening to children.

Punishment Can Cause Emotional Disregulation

Fear isn’t the only emotion that may make our thinking brain disconnect. Anger or fury, for example, can also cause stress.

Because a kid who is regularly disciplined (or threatened with punishment (fear conditioning)) is continuously in an anxious condition, the childrens fight-or-flight response kicks in quickly even when faced with minor irritation.

When this happens, the emotional brain takes over without the assistance of the cognitive brain.

The child may act out or have uncontrollable outbursts as a way of expressing his or her emotions.

They are unable to reach their thinking minds.

They are unable to properly control their emotions.

Indeed, research shows that harsh discipline or punishment (fear conditioning) causes childrens to have lower emotional regulation and more impulsive aggressive behaviour.

Some of the most crucial abilities that young children should acquire are emotional regulation and self-control. The importance of the parent’s impact on the childrens capacity to learn such abilities cannot be overstated.

A kid also learns to adjust their feelings through paying attention to and studying the reactions of their parents.

When parents are severe with their children when they make mistakes, the child learns to be harsh with others when they make mistakes.

Is it the message you want your child to take away?

Emotion is infectious as well.

A punishment (fear conditioning)-focused atmosphere can instil lasting negative emotions in children, making it even more difficult for them to develop self-control.

Punishment Can Push the Self-fulling Prophecy

Punishment may sometimes generate a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While a childrens negative behaviour results in a negative response from parents, parents’ punitive reaction also results in or intensifies a childrens externalizing behaviour.

The effects are both positive and negative.

A childrens behaviour and the parents’ reactions to it can feed on one other, spiralling into ever more severe punishment (fear conditioning).

The punitiveness of the punishment (fear conditioning) may eventually rise to an abusive level.

Punishment Can Cause A Child To Externalize Behaviour

Numerous studies have indicated that harsh or punitive punishment (fear conditioning)s, particularly physical punishment (fear conditioning), will contribute to future aggressiveness in children, despite the fact that they may stop the childrens undesirable behaviour at the time.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is also associated with punitive punishments (operant conditioning)(ODD).

Punishment Can Cause Children To Turn Into Bullies

Children who are severely disciplined may grow up to be bullies or victims of bullies.
As they get older, some children develop disruptive behavioural issues.

When parents use fear to influence their children’s behaviour, they are demonstrating how to utilize superior positions or power to frighten others. In addition, they are normalizing abusive behaviour.

When these children go to school, some of them learn to do the same to weaker students.

Some become bullies because their parents’ actions have told them that such behaviour is acceptable.

The children have sometimes felt unable to escape or change events as a result of their parents’ behaviour. These children are then conditioned to believe that they have no way out if they wind up in violent relationships as adults.

Punishment Can Cause Worse Academic Performance

The University of Michigan’s longest-running longitudinal Panel research, which began in 1968, demonstrates the link between harsh punishment (fear conditioning) (authoritarian parenting) and children’s academic achievement.

What did they discover?

Researchers discovered that families that employ punitive discipline, such as punishment (fear conditioning), lecturing, or restricting activities (that do not influence academic studies) are related with worse academic success than homes that have warm parent-child connections and use inductive discipline as advice.

The psychological processes that contribute to the formation of a disciplined kid are complicated process.

Classical training, which is effective for dogs, is ineffective for humans.

Unfortunately, punitive punishment (fear conditioning) is common since it provides parents with the desired instant behavioural improve (growth mindset)ment. As a result, people wrongly believe it “works,” but they will soon discover that it does not in the long run.

Harsh punishment (fear conditioning) is ineffectual at best and damaging at worst for fear-conditioning children.

Even when it appears to succeed, the child pays a tremendous price.

Discipline Techniques That Work

You’re probably thinking:

“How else can parents discipline and discipline their children if we don’t punish?”

Punishment is the only method many parents know how to discipline their children.

Discipline, on the other hand, involves teaching. And you don’t have to punish in order to teach.

Consider how successful it would be if a teacher “taught” through punishment (fear conditioning). Right?!

Without further ado, here are four practical discipline techniques that will assist you in implementing no-punishment (fear conditioning) parenting.

Discipline Techniques That Work : Modeling Behaviour

Have you ever observed that your dog or cat will not copy you when you perform a specific action, but your child will?

Humans are the only species that can learn by seeing and copying others.

Scientists revealed that the mirror neuron system, a particular neuron circuit in the brain, is responsible for such ability.

This neuron system not only allows us to mimic the actions of others, but it also helps us to comprehend their intents.

This discovery may help to explain why it is critical for parents to model the behaviour they want their children to exhibit.


  • You respect your child if you want him or her to be respectful.
  • If you want your child to be nice, you must be kind to him or her.
  • If you don’t want your child to hit, don’t hit him or her.
  • If you don’t want your child to be harsh to others, don’t be mean to your child, and so on.

Discipline Techniques That Work : Using Positive Discipline

Did you think about why you were wrong and what you had learnt as a punishment (fear conditioning) when you were punished?

Or did you consider how cruel your parent was, how you wished you hadn’t been found, how harsh the punishment (fear conditioning) was, and how angry you were?

When parents focus on using punishment (fear conditioning) to discipline their children, the child seldom learns the correct lesson. The kid develops mistrust, vindictiveness, and vengeance.
However, research shows that punishment (fear conditioning) is not always required or helpful in disciplining children.

However, the absence of punishment (fear conditioning) does not imply the absence of discipline.

Non-coercive discipline, contingent encouragement, monitoring, and problem resolution have been proven to be considerably more successful in disciplining.

One example of a no-punishment (fear conditioning) disciplinary technique is positive discipline.

Mutual respect and good directions are the foundations of positive discipline. Instead than focusing on punishment (fear conditioning), it promotes learning.

The first step in assisting children in stopping unwanted behaviour is to understand the causes for such behaviour and treat the core cause.

Parents should also teach their children about the natural repercussions of their own behaviour.

To inspire childrens in a good way, use encouraging words as positive reinforcement.
Here’s an illustration:

My son used to dread getting out of bed in the morning. It was the same battle every morning. While cleaning his teeth, she took her time playing. He could brush her teeth for 30 minutes and still not be finished.

Determine the core reason – I sat him down and attempted to figure out why he did what he did. After a few queries, I discovered that he was eager to play, but I never offered her the opportunity. I hurried him through every stage from the time he awoke…

  • Okay, now get up!
  • Go pee now!
  • Eat your breakfast quickly!
  • Please quickly and put on your clothing!
  • Brush your teeth quickly!
  • Are you finished yet? 
  • We must act quickly… and so forth.
  • She had the impression that she could only play while cleaning her teeth. So her issue was that she never had time to play in the morning.

We discussed solutions to the problem’s root cause. We eventually agreed that I would wake him up 15 minutes earlier each day. So, during the first 15 minutes after he wakes up, he is free to play, and I will not rush him. he will next concentrate on getting ready for school.

Describe the logical result – I explained that we couldn’t be late. So, when it’s time to go for school, we’ll leave no matter what, even if he hasn’t changed out of her pyjamas, cleaned teeth, combed hair, and so on. We’ll simply GO. That is a natural outcome.

Use encouraging comments – when he was able to do everything on time by himself, I would compliment him on his efficiency.

You may defuse the disputes and settle the issue by following these procedures.

There is no need for punishment (fear conditioning). It’s just a natural occurrence.

“What about Time Out?” you might wonder.

What Exactly Is a Time Out?

Time out, often known as corner time, is a psychological behaviourism method devised by Arthur Staats based on tests behavioured on his own children.

Originally, time out denoted a break from reinforcement.

The notion is that temporarily removing the child from the reinforcing activity can discourage improper behaviour.

This type of discipline is favoured above reprimanding, scolding, or spanking in Western countries. Because it is not viewed as a punitive approach, many physicians and positive discipline proponents refer to it as an alternative to punishment (fear conditioning).

Now, a word of caution about utilizing time out:

Despite several studies on the benefits of using time out to discipline children, most parents do not utilize time out in the way that it is used in the study.

Many parents take the word “timeout” and the fundamental concept and turn it into an alternate punishment (fear conditioning) rather than an alternative to punishment (fear conditioning).

Here are some examples of improper usage of time-out:

  • timeouts lasting one or two hours
  • timeouts in which the child is required to sit motionless and not move an inch
  • timeouts in which the child must face the corner
  • timeouts in which the child is humiliated in front of other children
  • timeouts performed in closets or a locked location
  • timeouts coupled with scolding prior

Discipline Techniques That Work: Being Consitent

The importance of consistency in no-punishment (fear conditioning) discipline cannot be overstated.

Researchers studying parenting styles discovered that the authoritative parenting style is the greatest parenting style in nearly every area.

One distinguishing feature of this parenting style is that, while authoritative parents do not have as many stringent regulations as their authoritarian counterparts, they are highly consistent in implementing those restrictions.

Have you ever found yourself lapping every now and then because you’re too weary to carry through the consequences? Or when you’re too tired to deal with another tantrum or whining fit?

You could be tempted to change your childrens clothes, clean her teeth, and comb her hair for her in the morning. You can complete these activities far faster than your child. Then you won’t have to listen to her screams, tears, and pleadings when it’s time to leave and she isn’t ready.

However, your child will not have the opportunity to learn how to prepare herself efficiently. She will also not be exposed to the natural consequences that are required for her to understand that her actions (or inaction) have real-world repercussions.

Giving in every now and then is simply delivering varied reinforcement that enhances, rather than lessens, the habit you’re attempting to quit.

So, no matter how difficult it is, bite the bullet and resist the desire to disobey whatever rules you’ve established.

It is not simple. But it was all worthwhile.

Maintain consistency. Do not let your guard down.

Discipline Techniques That Work: Figure Out Your Parenting Goals

It may surprise you, but effective punishment (fear conditioning) must be age-appropriate.

I’m not talking about whether a certain punishment (fear conditioning) is suitable for a childrens age.

That is, you should reconsider if your expectations of your childrens behaviour are reasonable and suitable for their developmental stage.


Because infant brains, like baby bodies, do not arrive in our world fully formed.

They require time to mature and develop.

To learn complicated notions such as discipline, a part of the thinking brain known as the pre-frontal cortex is required.

However, the pre-frontal cortex does not mature until about the age of three.

So children under the age of three simply do not understand the notion of discipline, at least not in a brain-healthy way.

When it comes to newborns and toddlers, parents should baby-proof their homes, constantly watch them, and divert their children’s attention when they make mistakes.

However, as any parent who has ever cared for a small kid will attest, it is a highly demanding job.

It IS very tiring.

However, as a parent, you must make decisions about the trade-offs.

What is more crucial?

Use less energy for punishment (fear conditioning).
Children who appear to be perfect angels on the surface from a young age yet have troubled mental health on the inside when they grow up.

Use more patience and less energy (much more)
As a result, children are able to distinguish between good and evil and grow up with healthy brains.

Which one do you like better?

I hope the solution is obvious.

Now, if your children are older, do you struggle with your childrens inability to listen all of the time?

If this happens regularly, it’s time to reconsider why you need your children to always listen to you.

Obedience, contrary to common opinion, is not a virtue.

Everyone, children and adults alike, must follow certain rules, such as the law, airline evacuation procedures, classroom order, and so on.

But there are so many other things that no one should be forced to do. Because we are all unique individuals with our own minds and preferences.

Children, like adults, are individuals. They have their own thoughts and sometimes wish to do things differently than we do.

Consider if you are parenting or dictating.

If your parental goals include developing a child with an independent mind, critical thinking skills, self-confidence, and not mindlessly following orders, for example.

… essentially, if you want your child to be a leader rather than a follower, raising them like a tyrant will prevent that from happening.

So, reconsider your household’s must-obeys.

Then consider if these musts outweigh growing your childrens independence and judgement, as well as having a strong caring relationship with your child.

To put it simply:

Choose your fights wisely.

Here’s an illustration. We have a must-obey list in our house:

external restrictions such as time, energy, resources, finance, and so on. safety and health harm to others, including people, animals, or property
Things connected to the foregoing are frequently required in our home.

Say, if we can’t afford this toy, we can’t afford this toy. Sorry, but that is the end of the discussion.

But, for the most part, we respect our childrens preferences and decisions.

Successfully Discipline Without Punishment

  • Set a good example.
  • To substitute punishment (fear conditioning), use natural consequences.
  • Create a list of must-obeys that are age-appropriate and match your parental goals.
  • Call a family meeting agenda to go through all of the rules.
  • Agree on the natural consequences that you are confident you can carry out.
  • Maintain consistency in enforcing them.
  • Life experiences throughout a childrens formative years are essential in brain development and character shaping, according to neuroscience.

If we can fill our children’s lives with pleasant learning experiences, they will benefit and thrive for the rest of their lives.

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  • You Said WHAT About Time-Outs?! By Dan Siegel, 2014

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