Why you should not punish your child and how to build a unique relation with him

Although many people may know me, they don’t know my recent story. So, this is how it starts.
I will begin today by shortly telling you how I ended up changing homes. My daughter, my wife and I, moved to Switzerland in June 2014. I remember with happiness what a great summer that was and how we discovered with joy many places for the first time. While my wife started a new job, I stayed home with my girl from the beginning, and we started to teach one another how to appreciate small and precious moments throughout each single day. I was myself growing, maybe more than her.
During the first six months here, all our small family visited us: our parents and my sister-in-law with her husband. One particular exception was with one family member, who did not visit us till November 2015. He is my only brother. I’m the oldest, the age difference between us being of 11 years.
Two months ago one of his best friends moved in Zürich, and suddenly he announced me that he would like to visit us too, at the end of fall.

“Great! I said. I am not the reason why he decided to come, but at least, I will spend some time with him, and I will have the opportunity to get to know him better.”

He arrived on his bike in a beautiful day of November. I put on hold all my ongoing projects in that period, and I only tried to answer my emails so I could focus my attention only on him. We cycled together, went hiking together, went along with my daughter at kindergarten, cooked together, went to the pool for a swim together, and we went for city sightseeing in Zug with my daughter. At the end of the week, on a cold sunny Saturday, we went to Zürich and Sunday we took an excellent boat tour on the beautiful lake of Luzern. My wife and I tried to make for him, those days he spent with us, a memorable holiday.
And, while my girl was in the kindergarten, (my wife being home only in the evening as she is working full time), we had the opportunity to talk, more than we had spoken in the previous six years. I know, it might seem a little overstated but I ensure you it is not. In one of these talks we had together he begun at some point to share something:

“I remember one winter day when I was in the 3rd grade. It was snowing, freezing cold and silence all around. I remember you attending to your college classes that day. When you came back home in the evening you checked my homework, which was, like most of the times, completed in no time from my side. But you were so proud of me and how I finished so quickly and precisely. I can still remember my only thinking being how can I get out from that small room and go into the living room to watch TV. But no, you wanted then to teach me something new. You took a new, big notebook and you started to write about something that I was supposed to be doing at school one or two years later. You explained nicely two times what I had to do, with examples, and everything, and after that, you passed me an exercise to solve it by myself. And I said:
“– NO, NO, NO this is not my homework!” And after that, you started hitting me on the head, in the nape, saying “You can do it!”. I kept saying NO and each time another hit was coming. In the end you left the room furiously. “

Hearing this story from him, memories of our fights together started to come back. Fights during which I was the only one hitting, as he was too small to fight back. What I can still recall up to this day is the stubbornness and anger I saw in his eyes. Tears came to my eyes, but I couldn’t let them go. Because now, in front of me, is this taller and stronger man than I was at his age. He is now laughing and when he tells me this story he has a smile on his face. Our parents never spanked us, however between 10 and 17 I was constantly in fights with other kids, most times being heavily beaten up. So I become also a bully, living with a constant fear that my little brother would suffer as much as I did. My true intention was to make him stronger and able to protect himself. Since I became a father and as I am trying to improve my parenting skills all the time, I realized how wrong I was in my intentions with my little brother. Luckily I learned from the Luise Hay’s books how to be gentle with myself. I did the best I could with the knowledge and understanding that I had at that time. I wanted to hold in my arms that eight years old boy from the story, but no words could change anything anymore. I also know that my younger brother was never beaten by other kids because he had not a stronger, but an older brother. One that I was craving for so much in my own childhood. Coming back to my story, you could imagine that the reason behind my desire to push more on him was that seeing his potential, I wanted him to explore it by studying more than what is mandatory. But his only desire, in his judgement of a normal eight years old, was how to finish homework quickly and do some activities he really enjoyed. Clearly, math wasn’t one of them. He consider it only a school punishment. He completed his math homework because he was afraid of the consequence. Bad grades being a strong one. Now he hates math.
I promise that I will tell you more about homework and why are not suitable for school children in another article.
In a way, I consider myself lucky because I applied all the principles of the traditional parenting at an early age, with my brother. I always looked for solutions to improve my relationship with him, and I think I succeeded in the end. But when my first child was born I knew from the beginning that the practices I applied till then with my brother are not sufficient. And I had to find ones that work better.
What was wrong in my intention to teach him more?
Well, to start with, I did not ask for his intentions. I didn’t know what he wished to do that night, as I was blinded by my own will to enforce something on him, against his will. Did I succeed to teach him new theories in math or anything new for that matter? NO.

Today I will share with you my first guidelines to follow in order to improve your relationship with your children and not to raise kids that have the same fear in their eyes as my brother had when he just laid eyes on me.
  • Listen to your child needs and don’t judge.

It was so simple for me to say to my brother:

“Hi! I noticed that you finished quickly. What are your plans next? Do you want me to show you a new math principle which will help you solve harder exercises quicker?”

And then I just had to listen to the boy in front of me. Would that behaviour then make a difference in our current one to one relationship?

It wasn’t easy for me and him to start talking again. Especially for him, I think. As for so many years, I did not listen, but only judge.

  • Don’t punish! Because you will have angry kids waiting for you at home.

15 years ago, my brother couldn’t stop me. He was small and weak then. With clenched teeth he was saying “NO” and even if I continue hitting him for hours, I couldn’t convince him to do what I wanted. I do remember that at that time, around 18-year-old, my age, I stopped hitting him. In fact I stopped spending much time with him at all. I gave up. His anger towards me became deeper and bigger and this method of punishment never brought me any results in my relationship with him. Myself being a victim of other bullies I become one in the end. I’m writing this for you but I’m also writing for him, and I hope that he realized I made these mistakes when I was very young.

luise hay gentle

  • Don’t punish! Because you will offer a model to your kids of how to use wrongly their power.

At the last parents meeting where my daughter goes for German classes, called “Deutsch macht spass” one of the teachers must have had some serious reasons to say something surprisingly in front of all the parents there:

“- Stop being aggressive home with your children. You should be aware that we know which of you are punishing or beating their kids at home. Stop doing that!”

I said then in my mind: “Really? You know that?”

I answered myself two hours later at home. “Of course they do!” The child is following at the kindergarten the education and behaviour they see and feel at home.

For example, that child can say anytime:

“Give me your toy otherwise I will push you! I am bigger!”

Why? Because a child knows this behaviour from a parent who used the force against him. Even verbally. Punishments are teaching the child that can pass effortlessly through life by using the power over those how are smaller or weaker.

For you to know that I’m not inventing the wheel now, from a list of 20 studies that ran over 1957 – 2004 (majority of them done in the United States), I picked one and here it is a chart from this study over discipline.

Straus, Murray A. Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children. 2nd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2001.

  • Don’t punish! Because the empathy you want to grow in your child, will die forever.

A 10 years old boy, Paul, watches his favourite cartoons in the saloon. It’s 6 pm, and his three years old sister, Sofia, plays alone. She wants to play together a little bit. She goes to him and asks for a play date, with the “Here I’m leaving” game in her arms. He says “no.” She is trying again. He is saying “no” again. She comes now with “Animals and their babies” game and, this time, she presses all the buttons on the remote control till the TV is turned off. The boy pushes his sister, and she fell, and she starts crying deafeningly. Their mommy has almost finished preparing rice noodles with vegetables and Tamari sauce for dinner. She comes in a big rush. She sees the girl down and takes her in her arms. The girl starts talking through her tears and she points her brother. The boy tries to explain, but his mother sends him away. Now the boy is alone in his room. Do you think that he is thinking now in his room if her sister stopped crying or at her mother and their dinner, or he is thinking only of himself or maybe how to revenge on his sister?

I know that I will never try to convince my kids to do anything by punishing them. Don’t imagine that now I am the perfect father, and I am the perfect example for my daughter. No. I don’t want to create this image. I struggle with all the challenges that all the parents like you are struggling. These days, for example, I’m struggling with yelling. And by meeting other parents who are facing the same problems like mine, I started to say to myself that I’m not so bad as a parent, but a normal one.
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