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Rant & Rave

By Scot Matayoshi

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Punishment breeds
more rebellion

THE thing that confuses me about most parents is the way they punish us for doing things which are in their eyes, wrong. Then they blame us for "rebelling" against them, for speaking out in protest, for constantly breaking the same rules over and over and over.

When parents inflict punishment upon their children, it is often ineffective or worse, has the opposite effect of what is desired.

Take the most common punishment for example: grounding. This punishment, as we all undoubtedly know, involves total excommunication from the outside world. This means no phone, no instant messaging, no fun of any kind, just total isolation from your friends. This, perhaps, is the most ridiculous punishment imaginable. Why you ask? Because it does nothing.

I know, I know. You're thinking deterrence, right? If kids get a taste of punishment they'll stop, think and learn from it. Well, I hate to break it to you parents, but why doesn't this work? Why do children throughout the nation still act out of line, still do things parents perceive as wrong if they know what punishment lies ahead?

The only thing grounding does is fuel the defensive spirit inside of us. It causes a repression of feelings and emotions and, like a dam, it elevates the desire to go out and do the thing we are being punished for in the first place.

SOCRATES argued that children cannot learn when forced to learn; that education cannot be poured into a child's mind like soup into a bowl. We cannot be taught like dogs to follow orders, to go fetch, to sit, to stay, to talk. No, education must be taught through nurture and understanding.

Prove to us that the violation causes us harm. Prove to us that it is bad for us, that it is wrong and immoral. If you can convince us to see things your way, there is no chance we will ever break the rule. Explain to us why this rule is necessary or why this restriction ensures our safety. Do not punish us without allowing us to realize what we did wrong, if we did wrong.

More often, the punishment comes with no explanation, only invoking the "Because I'm the parent" rule, as in, "Because I'm the parent, nothing needs to make sense. I make the rules and I can change them anytime."

Do parents seriously believe that we are thinking about what we did wrong while being grounded? No, we are instead thinking about why we are right, why we are being punished unfairly, and what we are going to do about it. The phrase "Go to your room!" is basically useless unless we know why we are being punished.

This only breeds a sense that punishment is arbitrary and can come down upon us for any reason, rightly or wrongly. We live in constant fear that we will be punished for the most trivial things, things which we would think nothing of, like forgetting to pick something up or leaving our bag at school. Yet, when parents are in a bad mood, punishments are often far disproportional to the violation, if any, committed.

And what does this accomplish? Why, the child hates their parents even more!

The thing about us kids is that we do not see the world through our parents' eyes yet. We do not care about society and its rules as much as we care about following our own hearts, our own minds, our own souls. Individuality is invaluable to us. We need to be our own person, not some mindless drone in a hive of people.

Scot Matayoshi is a junior
at Punahou School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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