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If we become emotional, as we are apt to do when we are upset about our child's undisciplined behavior and anxious about what it may foretell about his future, then we are not likely to speak with this soft voice of reason.And when the child is upset by fear of our displeasure, not to mention when he is anxious about what we may do to him, then he is in no position to listen well, if at all, to this soft voice.While the procedure is only uncomfortable, rather than painful, the degradation the child experiences is great.
Even if a child feels he has done wrong, he senses that there must be some better way to correct him than by inflicting physical or emotional pain.
When we experience painful or degrading punishment, most of us learn to avoid situations that lead to it; in this respect punishment is effective.
Although we may be annoyed when our children do wrong, we ought to remember Freud's observation that the voice of reason, though soft, is insistent. It may shock a child into doing our will, but he knows and we know that it is not the voice of reason.
Our task is to create situations in which reason can be heard.
And when the child is old enough and able, he will try to use such force himself—for instance, punishing his parents by acting in ways most distressing to them.
Thus parents would be well advised to keep in mind Shakespeare's words: "They that have power to hurt and will do none ....
The fundamental issue is not punishment at all but the development of morality—that is, the creation of conditions that not only allow but strongly induce a child to wish to be a moral, disciplined person.
If we succeed in attaining this goal, then there will be no occasion to think of punishment.
In the end the parent's goal—to eliminate bad language from the child's vocabulary—is rarely achieved.
Instead, the punishment serves to convince the child that although the parent is very much concerned with overt behavior, he is completely uninterested in whatever annoyance compelled the child to use bad language.