Positive Parenting

“Punishment” Does. Not. Work.

And it’s particularly ineffective with neurodivergent kids.

Jillian Enright
Published in
10 min readApr 25, 2021


Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Bear with me. Before you read the title and dismiss the premise, I am not advocating for a permissive style of parenting, and I am not suggesting that children shouldn’t have boundaries.

Boundaries vs. Punishment

The difference is that boundaries and discipline are about teaching, whereas punishment is about retribution.

Quote by L.R. Knost — Photo by author

Punishment often includes shaming and blaming which can really harm our children’s self-worth. Causing children to feel shame about their behaviour without giving them the skills or tools to do better will likely lead to worsening behaviour.

“Shame is the most disabling learning disability.”

— Hallowell & Ratey

More concerning, children may internalize the messages they receive about themselves, either directly or indirectly, which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy (“well, they say I’m a bad kid, so what’s the point in even trying?”).

Children follow our examples much more than they listen to our words, so if we role model losing our temper when a child does something goes wrong, then that is the example we are setting for them.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

— James A. Baldwin

Quote by James Baldwin — (image created by author)

What I am saying is that adult-imposed punishments, usually referred to as consequences because apparently that sounds nicer, are rarely effective.

I’ll rewind a bit…

Way back in 2007 when I started my Psychology degree, a professor sat at the front of a…



Jillian Enright

She/they. Neurodivergent, 20+ yrs SW & Psych. experience. I write about mental health, neurodiversity, education, and parenting. Founder of Neurodiversity MB.