Posted in Parenting

Why Collective Punishment Doesn’t Work and What to Do Instead

Whether a teacher or parent, you’ve probably found yourself using collective punishment at some point. Collective punishment is when a group or people (kids) are given a consequence for negative behavior, even if not all the kids made the choice to behave poorly.

A few examples:

  • A teacher takes away recess for the entire classroom because one table of 5 children didn’t finish their assignment.
  • “I will turn this car around!” – mom or dad take away an activity because one of their children is acting up in the back of the car.
  • And an ADULT example – the manager takes away the bonus for all salesmen because one of the five didn’t meet their quota.


There are a few reasons not to use collective punishment:

  • It can result in lack of motivation to listen for the kids that normally do! If I’m the kid who always loses recess because a classmate acts up, I may start to think, “why even try? I’m going to lose recess anyway.”
  • It’s terrible for fostering relationships – can you imagine how disliked that one kid is going to be for losing recess for the entire classroom? The poor kiddo’s self-esteem may plummet and he/she may feel isolated – which would likely lead to further issues.


So what to do instead? Pick an individual punishment, when possible. This can actually be a HUGE advantage. Imagine the entire classroom is given a task and those who do not finish don’t get to go to recess. Two kiddos don’t finish and are sent with another teacher. Instead of making all their classmates miss recess, they have to watch their class go to recess and come back – their classmates are probably still wound up from recess, it’s obvious they had fun, and they’re maybe even talking about all the fun things they did. Think that kid will try harder next time? Absolutely.

Imagine you’re a mom headed to the zoo and one of your three kiddos are acting up. Instead of making everyone miss the zoo, pick an individual consequence for that one kid. Maybe he can stay at grandma’s house instead, maybe there’s another caregiver in the car and the kiddo has to stay in the car for a bit with the other caregiver while the other kiddos go enjoy the zoo. Maybe the other two kiddos will get an ice cream cone with lunch, but the misbehaving one will not. That kiddo will see his siblings getting to do something he/she doesn’t get to… and will probably be motivated next time to have better manners in the car.

Sometimes you have to get creative, and sometimes picking an individual consequence can be inconvenient, but it’s well worth it!

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