Punishment has been discussed by scholars about it needs and its effect with regards its use as a means of correcting bad habits inherent in children.
Many opined that punishing a child is amounts to deliberate wickedness on the child as long as they are ignorant of what they do wrong.
But it is said that warnings must be given severally before punishment will be employed.
The term punishment in this connection refers to anything which causes the disappointment or unhappiness, this means that a beating, a cross word, failing at a task, being made to look foolish, or being kept in for extra work among other means.
The aim of punishing a child is to provide negative reinforcement, meaning that, to stop a child from repeating his offence by making him associate such action with unpleasant results.
Although it may sound easy to do this, we should realize that under certain conditions, punishment is not likely to produce the effect we desire.
Young children of preschool age have short memories. If, having done wrong, they are not punished until the next day; they may have forgotten what they did to deserve the punishment.
If punishment is to be effective, it must be associated with the offence for which it is given. Therefore, it should be given immediately after the offence has been committed.
There are times when punishments instead of removing bad habit, stamps it in and make it worse.
This is particularly the case with children who are punished for nervous habits such as bedwetting. Nervous habits of this nature are due to anxiety, the more a child is punished for a habit, the more anxious he becomes and the higher he is likely to continue with this habit.
Although, punishment may sometimes produce the effect we desire, it may at the same time produce other effects which are not desired. For example, a child may be publicly ridiculed for asking silly questions in the class.
The punishment of public ridicule can make him feel so ashamed that it stops him from asking silly questions again, but it may also have the effect of stopping him from asking questions again in the class.
There are times when children get satisfaction from being punished. Some children act in unpleasant ways simply because they want to draw attention to themselves. In this case, punishment is likely to be useless because by being punished the child has got what he wanted, namely attention.
It is true that he may not like being punished, but if the satisfaction he gains from receiving attention is greater than this dislike of the punishment in which it sometimes is, then the punishment will not stop the child from acting in such manner.
Even severe punishment are sometimes rewarding it, through being punished, the child becomes a hero to his class mates. If this happens, the admiration which he gets from friends may make him feel proud of what he has done.
Moreover, before punishing a child for doing wrong, we should always try to find out the reason why the child behave in such manner and consider carefully eitherto punish or not to punish the child .
When bad behavior was because of ignorance, tiredness, fear or unhappiness. Punishment may not be the remedy to these attitudes.
There are many times also that punishments are easier and enjoyable to do what is wrong; than it is to do what is right. In such cases, punishment maybe the necessary means of teaching the child that the enjoyments which he gets from doing what is forbidden is not worth the trouble he gets into as a result.
In conclusion, having bad behavior is not enough to frighten a child out from doing wrong things, it is also necessary to help him find better satisfaction in doing what is right.
Therefore, any effort to improve should be given positive reinforcement. For example, if a child who has been punished for punctuality issues makes an effort to be punctual, it is wise to show approval and give him the word of praise.
In this way we may be able to help the child feel proud of the fact that he has improved, once this happens, the improvement is likely to last long.
Olowole Emmanuel is currently a student of Mass Communication at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria.