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“Children can learn without being made to feel bad.”  – Sarah Rosensweet

This is one of the truths we need to accept if we want to be peaceful parents and discipline without punishment. 

We KNOW punishment feels bad and hurts our relationship– but can you actually raise great kids without it? DO kids when learn when they’re not punished? (Yes! Listen to episode #1 of my podcast, an interview with my kids, to hear from some almost grown-ups!!) 

Not using punishment can feel like a leap of faith as it is so ingrained in us. The punishment mentality is all around us. In our culture it is all too often modelled for us that we need to make kids feel bad if they do something wrong so that they will learn. 

The result is that when our kids act out, we often think, “I can’t let them get away with that!!” (or- your neighbour/friend/mother-in-law saying, “You’re not going to let them get away with that, are you?”)

The question is, get away with what? Being too silly? Having a hard time and being dysregulated? Making mistakes? Being a kid?

The urge to not “let them get away with it” is our fear talking. 

We don’t need to make them feel bad in order to help them behave appropriately for a situation. We need to model and teach them and set kind, firm limits as necessary.  

We don’t need to make them feel bad because they have big feelings and haven’t learned emotional regulation yet. We can welcome their feelings and help them learn to weather the storm.

We don’t need to make them feel bad when they mess up. We can help them understand what happened and why it’s not a good idea and what they can do differently next time. 

Think about a time when you’ve messed up. Maybe you let your partner down or you made a mistake at work. Would it help you learn not to do it again if your partner told you to go to your room and think about what you’d done? What about if your boss made you stay late and docked your pay? 

We truly can learn from our mistakes without being shamed or punished and our children aren’t any different. (A side note: I would argue that if your partner or boss did those things it would actually get in the way of you learning from the experience because you’d be so angry and humiliated.) 

The next time your child messes up or acts out, remind yourself that they don’t need to be made to feel bad. In fact, they probably already do feel bad! 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid of what other people might think, or afraid that they will be acting like this forever, or afraid that they’ll just do it again if you don’t come down heavy? 

What would you do if you could respond from love instead of fear? A hug, a talk about what could be different next time, helping them fix whatever went wrong. What would you want someone to do if you messed up?

Want some more support?

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Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 14, 17, and 20). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”

Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com

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