Parenting without Punishment – A Humanist Ideal

Raising a kid with respect doesn't mean raising a kid without discipline.

I have never hit my kid. Well, not never. I did one time whack him when he bit my butt, but that was an accident. I was doing dishes when he bit me and I wheel around to see what it was and accidentally hit him in the process. We both cried quite a bit as a result.

What I mean to say is I've never used physical punishment on my child. My son is intelligent, well behaved and a joy to be around. He’s 9 and he’s reasonably well disciplined. I say reasonably because I still have to keep track of his homework and remind him to do it.  But, he’s only 9, I’m pretty sure he will eventually have enough self-discipline to be responsible for those tasks too.

Given how many parents seem to think hitting kids and physical punishment is necessary to raising a well-disciplined kid, I have to wonder if maybe their definition of discipline is different from mine.  To me discipline isn't imposed by others, it is self-discipline that is the ideal. I was able to help my son become such a pleasant well behaved kid because I taught him how to choose to be good for himself. If I had tried to force him to obey me through the use of physical punishment he would have never become self-disciplined.

Hitting kids to get them to obey you is a form of bullying. It’s abusive. It’s unnecessary and it’s counterproductive to the goal of raising well behaved kids who have sufficient self-discipline to behave well without the threat of punishment.

I’m not alone in thinking this. The American Psychological Association agrees. They came out against corporal punishment back in 1975 as being unnecessary to the development of moral and competent adults ( and more and more research has been done that shows that not only is spanking as punishment not necessary, it’s actually counterproductive - 

But is the question of whether or not to physically punish children a Humanist issue?  Of course it is. The methods humanist parents use to raise ethical, responsible adults must reflect our values. Physically battering a child is morally indefensible given that it serves no good purpose and is actually counterproductive.  We have other more humane methods we can use to help our children learn self-discipline and we should be using them.

Helping parents learn how to parent without resorting to violence is a goal all Humanists should share which is why the American Humanist Association, in 2000 issued the following statement:

“The AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION deems corporal punishment a form of intimidation and condemns its use against anyone at anytime for any purpose, no matter how noble sounding, and calls for all people of goodwill to unite against its use.”

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