Nexus News

Why punishments don't work with children.

Mar 7, 2017
As parents we all hope that our children will grow up being able to solve conflicts in an effective and positive manner.  It is well documented that children’s behaviour is largely developed through what they see modelled by parents.  When a dispute arises at home, if our immediate reaction is verbally or physically punish the child then we are sending a strong message that this is how you deal with problems. Then when our children go to school and repeat this behaviour we find ourselves telling them this is wrong. This can be so confusing for children. So what can we do differently?

Firstly, it is good to reflect on how we handle disputes in our household and ask ourselves if we are consistent between how we behave and how we would like our children to behave when solving arguments. Let’s take conflicts and disputes between siblings. Although these conflicts can be stressful for parents, they are a natural part of the growing up process for many of our children. As parents, we should ask ourselves how we manage these conflicts: How can we best teach our own children to resolve their own disagreements in a calm and positive manner?
All children make mistakes but it is vital that they understand how their actions affect others. It is only then that they can truly learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them.

Consider your own experiences of growing up and how mistakes were dealt with. Do you have a positive memory of how you learned from your mistake, understood what you did wrong and how it affected others? Was the mistake dealt with in a punitive way, hitting or shouting - was the reason you didn’t repeat the mistake because you understood why it was wrong or was it because you were too scared of the consequences?

It may seem as though punitive punishment is successful if the mistake is not repeated, but this can also lead to deep resentment, a sense of feeling treated unfairly or merely the child becoming better at not getting caught.

At Nexus International School, positive behaviour management is vital in instilling high expectations for all students. The strategies we use in school can also be used by parents at home to solve conflicts and give children the lifelong skill of conflict resolution.

The method of positive behaviour management is called “Restorative Practice” and it originated in the court systems in New Zealand as a way of teaching people who committed crimes the impact and consequences of their actions. It became such as effective method of resolving conflicts that it spread into the education system and has been widely used in schools since.

Restorative Practice is both powerful and devoid of hitting, shouting or humiliating the child who has made a mistake. When a conflict arises, we ask the question “What has happened?”
Everyone must get chance to be heard and listen to each other. When children argue, tempers flair and our brains go into ‘flight or fight’ mode which means that we are not able to listen or think about what we have done. Giving time to calm down and taking turns to speak makes sure everyone feels heard, it calms the situation down and all parties are able to listen and respond in a positive way. Each person involved has a chance to explain what happened without interruption. During this time, tempers calm and our brains are more able to reflect on our actions. This builds an atmosphere of trust and respect, where children feel comfortable and are more likely to be honest.

The next questions we ask are: “Who was hurt or harmed? What was the effect on the other person?”
Through these questions you are asking your child to consider the feelings of others and to imagine how they would feel in that situation. Through this building of empathy, children begin to understand the impact of their actions.

Finally, we ask, “What can we do to make this better?” and “What can we learn from this?”
So often we find ourselves as parents forcing a sibling to apologise when they don’t feel they should. In asking the child to suggest what we can do to make this better the suggestion of an apology comes from them and therefore has more meaning.

This approach is deeply embedded at Nexus International School and the students can be heard using this approach themselves to independently solve their problems from Early Years to Year 13.

A restorative approach in schools leads to high behaviour expectations and a culture of respect. If you use a Restorative, rather than a punitive approach at home, your children will feel valued and heard. They will be enabled to learn from their mistakes and develop the skills of positive  self regulation - a lifelong lesson.

Learn more on why 'Punishments Don’t Work' at our work shop during Open Day on 31st March 2017 from 9.00am-10.00am.


Our Open Day is happening from 30th March to 1st April 2017.
For more information about Open Day go to

Written by Clare Waller
Director of Learning & Teaching, Primary
Nexus International School Malaysia