Guidance vs Punishment: What Works Best?

To use positive reinforcement and guidance to help your child or to use punishment, a hard hand and negative reinforcement, or even a combination of both, that is the million dollar question (and has been for a while).

It isn’t an easy question to answer, since both have their pros and cons, and both have shown to be effective, based on the situation at hand. Situational differences, as well as the differences in the personality of the person can render one more effective than the other. However, when it comes to the average Joe, which is better? Well, we take a look at it here.


Punishment and heavy-handed tactics have been used by teachers and coaches to some effect, often in the case of troublemakers and students who are unwilling to listen to kind words and soft advice. More often than not, instead of helping the child, this is a good way to make them more adept at lying, stealing or whatever wrongdoing that they are indulging in. Instead of helping, it just leads them to make sure that they aren’t caught in the act next time around. All in all, it isn’t the best method of teaching.

Plus, there may be many reasons for why a child is behaving in a troublesome manner. It could be a cry for attention, a way to hide other pains, a way to cover up mental stress or familial problems by acting out. Thus, punishment will only take them further down the wrong path as they come to the realization that everyone is against them, that they are all alone, without anyone to guide them. This could have the horrible consequences as they could fall in with the wrong crowd. The worst thing? Their mentors, the ones who were supposed to guide and help them would have been the one to lead them down this path with their heavy-handed approach.

Guidance, on the other hand, is a much better approach to deal with unruly children. Most of the times, all they want is some attention, for someone to see their troubles, the problems they are dealing with – which could be something as simple as studying for a test, or deep, familial issues which are affecting them. A helping hand, a kind word goes a long way to relieving their stress. It lets them know that they have someone in their corner, someone willing to help them out, someone who cares for them. It can go a long way towards improving their behaviour and personality. It gives them a mentor, someone to look up to, even if they do not appreciate or care for it immediately. For these simple reasons, guidance is always a much better tactic to approach them with in place of punishment.

It is a slow process, but in the long run, it is much more effective. It leaves a lasting impact on their psyche, turns them away from a bad path, and makes them want to do better, if not for themselves, then to not disappoint their mentor, whom they have begun to respect and care for over time.


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