Should Taking Activities Away Be Used as a Punishment?

This is a question I have gotten many times over the past two decades: Should parents take an activity away from their children as a punishment? For instance, their kids are excited about our martial art classes, so parents want to take away lessons as a punishment. Other parents consider taking away other activities, like sports or musical instruments.

First, let me be clear: my goal here is not to judge anyone’s parenting. Parenting is extremely difficult, and what’s best for one family may be different from what’s best for another; what follows is a consideration for parents asking themselves this same question based on my experience working with many families over the years.

The basic rationale for taking away an activity is fairly straightforward: If children are really enjoying an activity, taking the activity away as a punishment will deter them from the behavior they are being punished for. While that idea is straightforward, it also begs the question: What benefits will a child miss out on by not participating in the activity?

In sports, like soccer or baseball, children can get exercise, improve their athleticism, and, if coached properly, build their confidence. By practicing musical instruments, children learn the benefits of steady, disciplined practice. When figuring out whether or not to take away these kinds of activities, parents need to ask themselves, “Is withholding the potential benefits of an activity worth being able to withhold the activity as a punishment?”

What else do your children really enjoy that doesn’t have the same kind of meaningful benefits? For example, activities like playing video games or watching T.V. can be enjoyable, but they don’t support a child’s development. Taking away these less value-added activities follows the same rationale of deterrence without risking the benefits of developmental activities.

If your children are in a martial arts program—especially if they are in ours—not only are there other benefits you might not want risk while withholding the activity as a punishment, but you probably have a partner to work with and support your family. We always encourage parents to talk to us if their children are struggling with something at home or school. We’ll have the same conversations you’re having with them, but having that messaging come from an outside source can be impactful. So, not only are there other benefits we want children to continue receiving, but we can help your child work through potential behavior issues.

And, really, that’s our goal: to help children build positive behaviors founded in strong character. Punishment can be a valid disciplinary tool; however, it has to be aligned with, rather than working against, the true goal of discipline.

Categories: Parents Corner