What do you think of punishing children

Appropriate consequences - demand for self-control instead of impotent parenting rage

Modern life is very complex and indirect; caries, for example, only hurts weeks after you have not brushed your teeth. That is why you think about it linguistically, make sensible resolutions, and act accordingly. This trains reason, communication and willpower.

For this, children still need guidance and beneficial experiences - that is why we educate with explanations and consequences (Kon -sequence = Mit -sequenz). Some children need more explanations, others need clearer consequences or a lot of repetition - and appropriate to the respective developmental task.

In other words: educational consequences convey appropriate learning experiences in sensible words - and thus train the willpower.

Be attentive to each other

For some children, careful consideration should be given to what consequences are appropriate and when. Most families, however, are initially helped by the following principle:

  • address urgently and get feedback.

You respect each other, you don't ignore each other. You don't have to agree, but you give feedback. This also applies to partners: "Honey, are you thinking about shopping too?" "Oh dear, I have to postpone it until tomorrow."

And if there is no answer to children, you can ask: “What did I just call?” Most of the time, this questioning and repetition is effective.

Of course, parents hope that the children ´finally have to become sensible´, - but they often doubt it and therefore behave inconsistently - sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, sometimes instructing, sometimes threatening, sometimes questioning. Then children pay more attention to the pitch than to the words - and so the unproductive quarrels escalate. But you can address them urgently with eye contact and ask when the opportunity arises: “What did I ask you earlier? Please say first what you have understood. ”…“ So, what now? …. "

More attentive communication rewards the whole family with more respect for one another and much, much easier everyday routines.

Appropriate consequences

Treating each other carefully is more a question of motivation and style. If this fails, the relationships should first be considered - usually in an educational counseling center.

But if there is also a lack of the necessary self-control, appropriate consequences should perhaps also train the willpower - families should also first discuss this with their educational counselors.

With age, the child's understanding of consequences and self-control also develop. If the earlier skills are sufficiently internalized, more complex skills can complement and superimpose the previous ones. That is why I write the following table 'development logic' from below:





shows ethical RESPONSIBILITY

Sense / guilt

Youngsters R.

friendly REVIEW causes

Pride / shame

School child

enable reasonable CLARIFICATIONS

Advantage / disadvantage

School pupil

Follow intentional RULES

Wage / penalty

KiGa child

empathetic NOTES motivate

Praise / blame

small child

effect imposed INSTRUCTIONS

Lust / frustration


deepen caring INTERVENTIONS


Caring interventions, such as picking up a baby crawling away from it, are actually not educational consequences, but a mutual prior experience: the calls "stop, stop" in front of the landing, for example, are followed by the intervention of the overly curious toddler.

If a toddler has gotten used to following the parental "Come on, come on, yes, there is a piece of banana in my kitchen", because then it is sure to lead to the pleasurable pleasure of the sweet, it becomes much more likely in kindergarten age also the frustrating one Note the rebuke for not having cleared away his banana peels from Vespers. And if a kindergarten child is used to receiving a lot of empathic praise through good behavior, it will be much easier to implement agreed rules and their own prefixes reliably at school age. With these self-control skills, sensible clarifications and stubborn considerations will soon determine behavior - and responsible discussions during puberty will be possible.

It becomes particularly difficult for schoolchildren who formulate clever thoughts but do not have the self-control necessary to implement them: the drama of the gifted child. Even impulsive and violent adolescents have seldom developed sufficient willpower so that they tend to follow fascinating events instead of sensible resolutions.

In individual cases you have to pick up on the level of development that is still working well - in order to then gradually practice the further skills. This 'retraining' often happens in well-structured clubs, for example in table tennis or in martial arts, learning instruments or building model aircraft.

Hiring work

Educational consistency requires good reasons, calm mindfulness and attentive perseverance. In this respect, the need for consistency falls back on the consequent themselves.

Role models and goals motivate, but do not replace practice. Reward can support, but it must probably be attainable.

The cable car to the summit may be fun, but only the climbing tour gives you pride. In this respect, willpower overlays the childlike principle of pleasure with the youthful principle of pride. Later on, satisfaction from the principle of meaning can also be added.


  • Liebenow, H. (2004): Consequence: Parents learn what children need. Munich: Ernst-Reinhardt-Verlag. (2nd, expanded and revised edition).
  • in Turkish: Egitimde Istikrar. Ebeveynler Cocuklarin Gereksinimlerini Ögreniyorlar. Izmir: Ilya Izmir Yayinevi Matbaasi (order via [email protected]).
  • in polish: Konsekwencja W Wychowaniu Dzieci -poradnik dla rodzicow. Krakow: Wydawnictwo WAM (order via [email protected]).
  • in braille: in preparation.

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Dr. Hermann Liebenow, born in 1951, graduate psych., Psychological psychotherapist, child and adolescent psychotherapist. Specialist author. Since 1980 head of the municipal educational counseling center in Münsingen. Lectures and more here.


Dr. Hermann Liebenow
In the Spitzbubenhäule 33
72813 St. Johann


Created on February 13, 2012, last changed on February 13, 2012