Proper punishment for the teenage brain

Different methods of discipline can have a great impact on the adolescent brain.

Different methods of discipline can have a great impact on the adolescent brain.

The brain is one of the most complicated portions of the human body and neurologists are still uncertain of many things regarding its functions- including its processing methods. The brain processes the five senses, interprets danger, and determines how to react to punishment. This can then beg the question, what is the most effective way to appropriately punish a teenager? Through examining the psychological effects of corporal punishment, negative reinforcement, meditation, and reparation, we will increase our understanding of the most effective way to punish an adolescent and obtain positive results.

When an adolescent does something wrong, the typical response is to punish them by taking something away from them. In some cases, this can actually be more harmful than helpful. For example, by taking away a teenagers’ freedom, in the instance of grounding, their social interaction is being limited; therefore, they are at a higher risk of losing social standing and falling prey to peer-pressure because their social circulation is cut off while the socialization of their friends continues. Through socialization a person acquires the conventional patterns of human beings- take this away from a child and you run the risk of them behaving irrationally in normal social circumstances.

Another harmful form of negative reinforcement is taking an activity away from an adolescent that feeds their self-esteem. In an article on Psychology Today Carl E Pickhardt, Ph.D., says, “To do so is destructive, not just corrective”. All in all, negative reinforcement tends to cause more problems than it solves and should be used sparingly.

It seems as if in recent decades, the use of corporal punishment has seen a steady decrease. Is this really such a bad thing? Many older generations claim that being physically punished by their parents in response to breaking the rules taught them to be a respectful person, but psychology is proving differently. The American Psychological Association opposes the use of corporal punishment in all facilities where children are cared for or educated. The association states, “research has shown that to a considerable extent children learn by imitating the behavior of adults…and the use of corporal punishment by adults having authority over children is likely to train children to use physical violence to control behavior…” as one of their reasonings for not supporting this punishment. By and large, corporal punishment does not work.

Another common form of punishment among adolescents is reparation. This is when the perpetrator is required to perform additional tasks in order to work off the offense. Through this, the parents or community are benefiting and the adolescent is keeping in mind their violation while working. In many cases, this punishment yields positive results for all involved.

Lastly, meditation is becoming a new form of ‘punishment’ for children in schools. Two years ago the Robert W. Coleman School in Baltimore, MD began issuing meditation to students who had behaved wrongfully- instead of detention. The school utilizes a brightly-colored room for the students to practice mindful meditation. In fact, since this after school program began, they have issued zero suspensions. It is clear to see from this that perhaps assigning meditation for punishment will result in better behaving adolescents.

In conclusion, the world is filled with many different forms of punishment and some just do not work. Negative reinforcement and corporal punishment tend to cause negative results, while meditation and reparation are more likely to solve the issue at hand. Although punishment is situational, if you administer one brand of it and the results are not what you wanted, don’t try it again.