Spare the rod?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about disciplining children. I was telling her what a troublesome weekend we had with bad behaviour and imposing punishments and she informed me that she and her husband didn’t punish their children. Well I nearly fell off my chair.

My friend is a psychologist who works with children and I have to admit her kids seem less rowdy than mine. Have I been going wrong all this time?

Obviously the norms of childrearing change over time and one thing I am sure about is that I don’t want to have to use force to get through to my children. So what weapons are at our disposal today? The most common one for small children is probably time out. Will future child development experts say this was a horrible form of child cruelty? I hope not. If so the producers of the Supernanny programmes will have to stand trial first.

The whole issue brings to mind a recent article I wrote about the relatively soft sentencing practices in Switzerland.

One criminology professor I spoke to pointed out that harsher sentences did not reduce crime rate – on the contrary. In other words there is no deterrent effect. During my research I also came across the work of the Australian criminologist John Braithwaite and his method of restorative justice. He believes that shaming is part of administering justice but that there is good shaming and bad shaming. According to Braithwaite shaming which stigmatises and alienates the person, like prison (or time out?), is much less effective than shaming which involves recognising what you did wrong and trying to atone for it. Here’s the link.

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