Rewards And Punishments Become A Prison

Researchers investigated the impact of parenting practices on the amount of time young children spend in front of screens. They found a majority of parents use screen time to control behavior, especially on weekends. This results in children spending an average of 20 minutes more a day on weekends in front of a screen. Researchers say this is likely because using it as a reward or punishment heightens a child’s attraction to the activity.

We don’t use rewards and punishments because they have unpredictable results!


A child’s two-day absence intended to correct some behavioral problem can have the effect of making it all worse.

The study found a “bi-directional association” between psychological distress and exclusion: children with psychological distress and mental health problems were more likely to be excluded but their exclusion acted as a predictor of increased psychological distress three years later on.

School suspension as it’s sometimes called, doesn’t seem to fix any problems. And according to this study it may cause mental disorders. It’s just another kind of punishment. And as Doctor Montessori wrote a hundred years ago, punishments should be avoided always, partially because what an adult expects the child to perceive as a negative experience, the child may perceive as a desirable experience.

“For children who really struggle at school, exclusion can be a relief as it removes them from an unbearable situation with the result that on their return to school they will behave even more badly to escape again. As such, it becomes an entirely counterproductive disciplinary tool as it encourages the very behaviour it intends to punish. By avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education.”

I once observed a child acting bizarrely during school lunchtime. His teacher told him that as a result, he can’t go to recess and he must remain inside all by himself. The four-year-old calmly explained to me that he misbehaved because now he gets to be alone in the classroom with no one to bother him and he could finally relax.

Spanking Children Causes Problems Ten Years Later

Here’s another of many studies showing that spanking does harm.

…findings showed direct and indirect effects (via self-regulation) of early negative emotionality on later behaviors. …discipline practices in infancy had direct long-term implications for behaviors in 5th grade.

It Doesn’t Work

Aside from being obviously cruel, spanking doesn’t work, unless what you’re trying to do is make your child emotionally unbalanced and forgetful.

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking.

Tantrums And Reason

When a child decides to see what happens when she forgoes all socially acceptable behavior in favor of a tantrum, I think they’re trying to learn. It’s a strategy. The child may be trying to learn if you mean what you say, or if your limits aren’t really there. And that’s what this study says too.

Over the longer term, compromise ‘made all behavioural problems worse for the most oppositional toddlers’, the study’s authors Robert Larzerle and Sade Knowles found.

Reasoning, however, was most effective after two months for these children, despite being the least effective response immediately.

The authors wrote that they found it ‘surprising’ that reasoning worked in the end with ‘oppositional’ infants.

They wrote: ‘To our surprise, frequent use of reasoning decreases behavior problems subsequently with oppositional toddlers, even though it is the least effective response for immediate reduction of noncompliance.

Here’s something to consider.

Our intervention in this marvelous process is indirect; we are here to offer this life, which came into the world by itself, the means necessary for its development. And having done that, we must await its development with respect. — Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook

To The Principal’s Office

It’s what they wanted in the first place.

Miss Wong said the study showed that punishing a bully does not often work and in fact could enhance bullies’ social status through notoriety.

The article goes on to explain that bullies are not intellectually stunted, nor are they unable to control their supposedly wild emotions. They have in fact calmly and rationally decided that bullying is the best way for them to advance themselves. And in an ordinary school environment, they may be absolutely correct.

Doctor Montessori writes about this sort of thing a long time ago.

As to punishments, we have many times come in contact with children who disturbed the others without paying any attention to our corrections. Such children were at once examined by the physician. When the case provided to be that of a normal child, we placed one of the little tables in the corner of the room, and in this way isolated the child; having him sit in a comfortable little armchair, so placed that he might see his companions at work, and giving him those games and toys to which he seemed most attracted. This isolation almost always succeeded in calming the child; from his position he could see the entire assembly of his companions, and the way in which they carried on their work was an object lesson much more efficacious than any words of the teacher could have been. Little by little he would come to see the advantages of being one of the company working so busily before his eyes, and he would really wish to go back and do as the others did. We have in this way lead back again to discipline all the children who at first rebelled against it. The isolated child was made the object of special care, almost as if he were ill. I myself, when I entered the room, went first of all directly to him, caressing him as if he were a very little child. Then I turned my attention to the others, interesting myself in their work, asking questions about it as if they had been little men. I do not know what happened in the soul of those children whom we found it necessary to discipline, but certainly the conversion was always very complete and lasting. They showed great pride in learning how to work and how to conduct themselves, and always showed a very tender affection for the teacher and for me. — Dr. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method (1912)

It should be noted that her definition of the word “discipline” changed after this early work. But for more on those details you’ll have to take the AMI training.