A Duke University study indicates that corporal punishment fosters anxiety and aggression in children, and that hugs afterward don’t remove these effects. In fact, the article states that “A loving mom can’t overcome the anxiety and aggression caused by corporal punishment, and her otherwise warm demeanor may make it worse.”


Such results would not surprise a person who believes in Choice Theory, which is based on non-coercive principles. Punishment is one of the deadly habits that harms relationships, influence, and performance. In other words, punishment strategies have a way of nurturing the exact behavior you are trying to eliminate.

Excerpts from the article include –

If you believe that you can shake your children or slap them across the face and then smooth things over gradually by smothering them with love, you are mistaken. Being very warm with a child whom you hit in this manner rarely makes things better. It can make a child more, not less, anxious.

Generally, childhood anxiety gets worse when parents are very loving alongside using corporal punishment. The researchers aren’t sure why, but it simply might be too confusing and unnerving for a child to be hit hard and loved warmly all in the same home. More severe punishment leads to more severe aggression and anxiety.

It is far more effective and less risky to us non-physical discipline. Discipline means “to teach,” not “punishment.”

43 countries have outlawed corporal punishment

Punishing shares the same mindset that fosters all of the other deadly habits. It is basically our desire to intimidate and to threaten put into action. These coercive behaviors all come from the same worldview. My personal belief is that intimidation has a similar effect on children when it comes to anxiety and aggression. As we attempt to change the behavior of our children by yelling, threatening, lashing out and punishing, they internalize this model and use these same behaviors when they want to change how a sibling or friend is behaving. The ineffective cycle is perpetuated.


Helping a toddler, or a child, or an adolescent become the best version of themselves involves patient instruction and when needed, compassionate confrontation. We need to explicitly describe and explain the needed behavior and hold the line on expecting it. Children need to be corrected when they are being unkind or bossy or too rough, but not just by yelling at them or threatening them. We assume that children, even toddlers, know what to do and how to do it, however I don’t think this is the case. Seeing my own grandchildren occasionally go into an emotional melt down over some perceived injustice (e.g. – bath issues, nap issues, food issues, have to be strapped into car seat issues, etc.), and then seeing my daughter patiently ask them to use their words to talk about their frustration, rather than acting out emotionally, is an example of this kind of instruction. Kids need to be taught the most basic skills and behaviors, and re-taught when they forget.


For those interested in the Soul Shaper classes at PUC during the summer, please keep the following schedule in mind and contact me if you have any questions –

Soul Shapers 1: June 22-25

Soul Shapers 2: June 29 – July 2


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