Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?

Published on August 13, 2019

By Andrew Adler, Ph.D., Director and Clinical Psychologist,

Adler Family Centre, Hong Kong

I have never met a parent who enjoy sees her child misbehave. Behaviours such as hitting and refusal to comply with simple requests almost always irritate and sometimes anger us as parents. We want our children to develop excellent self-control and grow up to become responsible and successful adults. As such, we generally believe that we must punish her when she misbehaves, lest we "spare the rod and spoil the child."

But wait! If we punish our children often, even for the smallest infractions, our efforts are likely to become increasingly ineffective and, sometimes, counterproductive. Over time, children who are punished often will acclimate or become used to punishment, believing that it is "no big deal." For some children who are punished often, it becomes a game to them. The result? These children are likely to misbehave more often.

The solution? Punish your child less often and only for major infractions (e.g., hitting a sibling with force). By adopting this strategy, punishment will continue to be meaningful and certainly not a game. And you child will grow up to be a responsible and successful adult.

Category(s):Child Development, Oppositional & Defiant Behavior in Children & Teens, Parenting

Written by:

Andrew Adler, Ph.D.

Andrew Adler, Ph.D. is the director of the Adler Family Centre and the Honorary Consultant (Psychology) at OUHK-LiPACE. He is a licensed psychologist in New York State (US) and has specialised in evaluating and treating a wide range of psychological difficulties for the past 20 years. He earned doctoral and master degrees in clinical psychology from Yale University after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. He taught at Yale University and supervised medical students as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. In his work in hospitals, clinics and private practice, Dr. Adler has evaluated and treated the full range of psychological difficulties experienced by children, adolescents, adults and their families. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, he was a psychologist in Shanghai for three years, treating and assessing children and adolescents, both expats and local residents.

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