I am taking Introduction to psychology this semester and one of my assignments is to find two parents and ask them,

"When do you think that punishment is the most effective strategy that you can use when trying to get someone to do something they do not want to do? Is punishment the best policy?"

So, I thought I would get some perspectives from the people here.

Let me know what you guys think. I was told not to debate, but if I need more clarification, I may ask.

Thanks in advance!


EDIT due to confusion as to what is considered punishment. Sorry for the lack of clarification:

As Unseen  and Erock68la have both mentioned, punishment is the consequence that is used to decrease the unwanted behavior.

An example:

A boy is about to take a quiz and his parents want to make sure he studies.

Positive reinforcement would be rewarding the child with something if he does well.

Negative reinforcement is letting him know that IF he does poorly, there will be a consequence.

Punishment is when the parents carry out the consequences mentioned when they used negative reinforcement.

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This sounds to me like a loaded assignment. In other words, if you were to conclude in any way that punishment might work, you'll get at best a severe slap on the wrist.

It seems to be taken as a virtual given nowadays that "there's always a better way than punishment," which strikes me as a popular opinion and unwarranted generalization rather than an actual, provable, fact.

Of course, there's punishment and there's punishment. Sending a kid to their room, swatting a misbehaving kid on the bottom (not hard enough to leave a mark), a hard bare-bottom spanking, and giving the kid a black eye or broken arm are very different sorts of things.

"Punishment" is not the way to go (at all.)

I believe that setting limits, explaining consequences and following through with those consequences is the best. Now all I have to do is give my son the "mom look" and he knows I mean business.

My ex husband believes in yelling and hitting. My son does not respond to that. It is not effective or healthy.

At some point, the "mom look" will not work on a rebellious child, so what does "means business" ultimately amount to if not punishment?

I might also say that using the "mom look" is negative reinforcement, and is thus a kind of punishment.

The "Mom" look can be a smile. I often look him in the eyes, wait until I see the "click" that he knows he's caught red handed and say "what are you doing?" and it's not in an abusive or overpowering way if his actions don't warrant it.

I do however disagree. Consequences and follow through, and setting clear limits is the ONLY thing that works on strong willed children. My son is strong willed and aggressive, and volatile (esp after spending time with his dad.) I keep him in line with love, and communication, and trust, not an iron fist.
First of all, in psychology the definition of punishment is a consequence that DEcreases the frequency of a behavior; reinforcement is when the consequence INcreases the frequency of a behavior. So I question the wording of the assignment.

Using reinforcement to shape appropriate behaviors is the preferred way to go, as a general rule. I would use punishment in situations where a lesson must be learned immediately without the time for shaping or trial and error. For examples, touching a hot stove or running into the street.

Paul Goodman, the famed sociologist author (Growing Up Absurd, Parents Day) disbelieved in corporal punishment with one major exception. If a kid who should know better runs out into the street without looking (or does something equally risky), he believed in a good solid swat to reinforce the importance of not doing so. In other words, it's only justified when done in terms of promoting the safety and preserving the life of the child.

I've been thinking (always dangerous): Can't any punishment always be turned around and viewed as an encouragement. 

Using someone else's example, you have a son you want to shower every morning, but he's constantly skipping his morning shower, so you do something about it: you shave his head, which you know he won't like. Now, is that a punishment to decrease his disobedience or an encouragement to foster obedience?

That is a strangely worded run-on question. Yikes. Have you asked two parents yet?

It's not just a run-on question, it's a complex question. Did you notice that there are two separate question marks?

I agree.

I just copy and pasted the Professors words from the online assignment.

If you think that's bad, you should see how he writes everything else. Lots of added punctuation!!!?? and spellting typoz.

And yes, I'm asking YOU. I'm kind of an introvert and the only people I know are from work and I have no interest in asking them these questions. Therefor, I am asking the people on this forum.

Depends on what you call "punishment".  My son didn't shower for three days in a row this summer after being told to shower each morning.  He's got a REAL short haircut now.  That was his punishment.  We don't spank, hit or physically touch him in anger.  But we do come up with creative ways to show him he has done something we do not approve of.  We call it punishment.  However most people around us wouldn't say it's punishment.  So please clarify what you think has to happen for it to be punishment.

According to erock68la, "in psychology the definition of punishment is a consequence that DEcreases the frequency of a behavior; reinforcement is when the consequence INcreases the frequency of a behavior."

It seems that one can view many strategies as both a punishment and an inducement. Using erock68la's terminology, by cutting your son's hair short you both decreased his disobedience and increased his obedience. 


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