Why We Don’t Punish

Read my new blog at TODAY Moms about why we don’t punish Tariku. Ever.

Weigh in with your comments if you feel moved. The discussion on the TODAY Moms Facebook page is pretty heated.

28 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Punish

  1. The best, most supportive thing we can do as parents is never say never. If your system works for you and your family, then whom am I to say it is wrong? Thanks for sharing your story. I am a better parent because I am willing to observe others and learn something new every now and again.

  2. Thank you for soooo elegantly phrasing my own child rearing philosophy! This is a topic I often end up refusing to discuss openly because of the flak my husband and I get. Thanks for making this public!

  3. Very interesting. Now that my boys are 22 and 28 I look back with the insight to see some things I might have done differently if I have a magic mirror. I admire your patience because really what is the biggest factor here. Parenting is a challange and hopefully we all try to do our best, I hope as your son grows, he appreciates your efforts. Best to you all.

  4. Fascinating! I am a parent of two small children, and while I do not exactly share your child-rearing philosophy (no punishment), I must admit that I am intrigued by it. I admire your energy and dedication to your son, and your desire to give him a safe and loving environment in which to grow.

    • Thanks for reading and getting into the exchange of ideas. I never expect that we’ll all agree on everything but I love when we can discuss our differences with respect!

  5. This is exactly what I do with our two-year-old son and I think we all feel more free as a family not having to constantly deal with time-outs and the disconnection that results. Great essay! It was linked on FB today by the Echo Center for Parenting (aka CNVEP).

  6. As a Radical Unschooler, I was heartened to see this pop-up in my facebook feed. We parent similarly, although our philosophy extends a bit further into allowing our children to make most decisions for themselves, including chips for breakfast. 🙂
    Good luck on your parenting journey!

    • I’m so interested in unschooling. If I didn’t work so darn much, I’d consider it. It might yet happen! You’re the second person who said- why not just let him have the darn chips? Don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself!

      • You’re right it does make it a little trickier with two working parents but it happens. Worth it! And maybe if the ‘schooling’ part doesn’t work, the parenting philosophy seems it might resonate with you. There is a conference in San Diego in September, check it out if you’re so inclined. http://goodvibrationsconference.com/

        I actually bought your book after reading this article and just finished it this morning. Amazing story, glad you shared it with the world. It did make me think a lot (even more) about how incredibly important our parent/child relationships are. It really is everything.

  7. Jillian, I have a question for you. I absolutely loved this article and completely agree. It’s how I naturally tend to parent. However, it was much, much easier with 1 and/or 2 children. I now have 5 kids, ages 7 and under. How do I parent like this when I have 2 kids having those tantrums at the same time while the other 2 are trying to talk to me and the baby needs to nurse?! I am so overwhelmed because I don’t feel at peace with how things are in my home, but don’t know how to parent this way with so many little ones needing this attention at the same time. I would seriously appreciate any input, thoughts or tips! Thanks mama.

    • I wish I had more to offer here. I realize that my experience is so limited with only one! Where are you located? You can definitely find support at The Echo Center in Los Angeles and if you’re elsewhere maybe they’ll have a referral for you. I would also maybe seek out some blogs of moms with big families (I particularly like rage against the minivan) and see what they have to offer. Good luck!

  8. Thanks for sharing. I love this parenting philosophy/style, it’s what I strive to do. I’m having a really hard time, so it’s great to hear about other people successfully doing this. It helps me keep trying.

  9. Jillian, I admire you for espousing your philosophy in such a mainstream blog (a longtime blogger for AOL, I think I can relate to the reaction with a pain deep in my gut and an urge to close the laptop for good). I’ve recently begun writing about my belief that punishment doesn’t work — I recently had a piece on punishment in schools published in a literary journal — and even family members and friends are perplexed. “what do you DO when they misbehave?” they ask. timeouts are so de rigueur, it’s as if they were knitted in our bones.

    in simpler times, perhaps, there were no chips and we gave our children food when they were hungry, and it was always nutritionally dense. in these times, we can indeed set limits about those things we know more about (the three-year-old, in my worldview, doesn’t get chips for breakfast because mama knows that chips don’t provide what his body needs) — we can not control them, but we can protect them from harmful things. we can make bargains (if my eight-year-old’s older friend influences him to use the word “gay” to mean “really dumb”, then I will not agree to playdates with the older friend; if he can resist such impulses, the playdates resume). we can model the behavior we want to see in them (always, always the best way to get what we want).

    anyway, I think you’re brave and, as a mother of three older children with a husband off in Kuwait, I have have anecdotal proof that it actually works. (it does take patience though. oodles!)

    • Or the three-year old could happily eat chips, without shame, and learn for himself what his own body needs, while at the same time not giving up his inner authority to his parents.
      Eliminating punishment was a HUGE step for me. Recognizing that our children are people capable of learning from compassion and empathy instead of needing imposed consequences is an amazing revelation.
      But the heart of the matter is eliminating control. Going through the process of eliminating my need to control the children in my life was (is) incredible, for them and for me.

      • Much thanks for this input. You really have me doing some thinking. What is your favorite unschooling resource?

  10. When I came began researching Unschooling I used these places the most because I could pick just one sub-topic to dive into at a time, less overwhelming.



    My favorite current resource is my friend Teresa’s book, and her website is also great. It’s not Unschooling specific, more like Alfie Kohn. She talks about her process of examining and working on eliminating the authoritarian paradigms of parent/child relationships. She sites a lot of research on control in her book.

    I love this blog and she’s in LA. She’ll be speaking at the conference I linked above. It will be our first conference, I’ve heard they are amazing.


    I wrote about my own journey starting out here, and keep up a bit writing about our daily life:

    My own local Unschooling community has by far been the most valuable. I would definitely seek them out if you want real people to talk to. Reading only got me so far, it was making real connections and seeing other families living so happily and healthily that sealed the deal.

    Really though, the greatest teachers are our kids!

    Feel free to email me too if you decide to pursue this and have any questions or want help/support.


  11. Hello, I love your article.

    Our philosophy is very similar and my children are living proof that it works.

    I have a 13 yr. old daughter and two boys ages 10 and 8. Our family is pretty alternative. We also read Alfie Kohn! Our sons go to a humanistic school in Culver City from which my daughter recently graduated. The school is not an academic school; however, they focus on conflict resolution and communication skills. The curriculum is child-led and teachers function as support and mediators for when they work out problems.

    My daughter is achingly beautiful, compassionate and self-aware. She is her own person. She decided to go to a conventional school instead of unschooling, she caught up academically and has skipped a grade. She does not agree with the authoritative nature of the school and the language they use and voices her concern. She loves to learn. My older son has transformed into a loving, nurturing, self-aware individual from an emotional and physically aggressive one. My youngest is bright, fair and self-aware. They have their own opinions and thoughts apart from ours. I have limits for them and they have limits for me, their friends, relatives, etc… When we don’t agree, we work things out and negotiate. We have family meetings that we modeled from their peer to peer morning meetings at school. We discuss Problems, Plans and Sharings.

    When you have time please check out this beautiful blog about parenting from a father’s perspective:

  12. Depends on what sort of person he is. Some human beings are carrot and stick oriented and some are not. I’m not, but some people need that.

    I couldn’t help but think of the story of your Dad hitting you. : ( I know about things like that and know that it influences your life all over the place.

    You’re a good writer, and…pretty. Best.

  13. Jillian, I first started reading your blog a couple months ago because, quite frankly, I’m a Weezer fan and I was looking to learn a bit about Scott and the other band members, but I’ve found that I really enjoy your posts, regardless of who they’re about. I particularly enjoyed this post about why you don’t punish your son, as I have a similar parenting style.

    I have two children- a 19 year old and a 4 year old. My little one just turned 4 and he has a VERY strong personality. He also has ADHD, sensory issues and possibly mildly “on the spectrum”. In other words, he’s the center of my life, but he’s a handful, more than a handful- he’s a wild one. 🙂 I’m not perfect- sometimes I mess up at parenting, often I feel like it’s all just guesswork and prayers- but if my son exhibits “bad” behavior (really, what child is really “bad?”), then the easiest way to correct the behavior is to find out what’s behind it and find a way to connect with him to make it a learning experience for him. Often for both of us. I get a lot of criticism from some people for being too “easy” on my son, but I’m doing what I feel is best for him and it’s nice to read about other parents who do the same for their child. 🙂

    I can tell that you and Scott are AMAZING parents and Tariku is one lucky little boy.

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