Is Punishment Necessary in the Classroom?




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To promote effective teaching and learning in a classroom, the management of students’ behavior is critical. Numerous studies recommend diverse strategies for managing students’ behavior in the classroom. Among them is punishment.

Some researchers believe that punishment is a significant part of discipline. Some of these scholars are Canter, Dobson, Skinner, Wilson, and Hand.

In this article, we are going to explore whether punishment is vital in managing student behavior.

We believe that punishment, even though sometimes used to deter undesired behavior in the classroom, is a critical part of behavior management. But we don’t recommend it in today’s classroom. This is because of the numerous problems that come with the use of it in the classroom. There are numerous alternatives that are more effective than punishment. The rest of the sections of this article will explain this point further.

What is punishment?

It can be perceived as the use of negative stimuli to prevent undesired behavior in the classroom. This often causes pain that deter students from repeating inappropriate behaviors.

For example, not allowing a student to go out for recess because of inappropriate behavior during lessons. It can also be physical pain, caused by a student kicking another student.

Is punishment Necessary in the School?

Proponents of punishment tout the importance of it, arguing that it is a necessity in society. The reasoning behind their opinion is that:

1. Our interactions in society (school) are governed by rules and regulations.

2. These rules include the rule of obligation. A rule of obligation is any rule that facilitates successful human behavior in a society. It is based on the opinion that we feel obligated to reciprocate what is done to us.

3. Some examples of the rule of obligations are moral and scholastic rules in the school.

4. Moral rules aid us to promote cooperation and collaboration among students. It also aids us to prevent conflict among people in the school.

5. Scholastic rules promote productivity in teaching and learning in a school.

6. These rules and regulations are backed by punishment.

7. Schools can’t survive without these rules and regulations.

8. Therefore, punishment is a necessity in the successful operations of schools.

What are the Problems with the Use of Punishment in the Class?

Haven understood the arguments for the use of punishment to promote discipline in society and school, it is substantial to quickly explore some problems with it.

Opponents of punishment urge us to stay away from its use due to the following problems they found about it:

1. Punishment informs an individual to stop doing an undesired behavior. Thereupon, it does not encourage an individual to put up the desired behavior. This means that punishment does not necessarily help replace undesired with desired behaviors. This is one of the reasons why some researchers discourage teachers from using punishment in maintaining discipline in their classrooms.

2. Punishment can instill fear in students. This can cause problems such as loss of concentration, confidence, and anxiety among students. It can therefore impact students’ learning and achievements.

3. It can promote aggressive behaviors among students. As a way of coping with punishment, students can get aggressive towards teachers and/or their colleagues. This can produce a threatening environment for teaching and learning for both teachers and students.

4. It is also claimed that punishment suppresses undesired behaviors instead of eliminating them. That is, it allows individuals to stop inappropriate behaviors temporarily. Most of the time, pupils repeat the inappropriate behavior after the pain of the punishment is forgotten or no longer present.

Guidelines for Using Punishment

From the previous sections, we understood punishment, why some people considered it necessary in schools and the problems that come with it.

Depending on the situation and your philosophy of classroom discipline, you may want to administer punishment in your class.

The following guidelines can be of help if you chose to. These guidelines are based on Essex’s (1989) ten costly mistakes one should avoid when administering corporal punishment:

1. Make sure the punishment is just painful enough for the offenses committed by the student. That is, the pain caused by your punishment should not be more than the inappropriate behavior put up by the student. Failure to achieve that will make it fall flat and ineffective in preventing the undesired behavior.

 2. Consistently try to communicate behaviors that attract punishment to students beforehand. That is, you have to repeatedly prompt students that specific behaviors will lead to administering punishment to them. This serves as a warning and presents them opportunities to improve or drop punishable behaviors.

3. In administering punishments, be mindful of the nature of the student involved. Don’t overlook the characteristics of your students such as their age, physical and emotional state. Don’t ever administer a punishment that is heavier than what the student can bear. Else it will cause problems for you, especially in managing students’ behaviors. You may also face legal actions for that.

4. Utilize appropriate instruments for administering punishment. There must be a reasonable instrument present in your school if it is allowed, suitable, and purposely for punishing inappropriate behavior. Using inappropriate instruments could lead to injuries on students, and subsequently, create problems for you.

5. In a well-organized school where the use of punishment is allowed, there are appropriate procedures and processes laid down for its administration. It is necessary to follow the due process. In some schools, there are experts to administer punishments, and it is not the responsibility of the teacher. Make sure to follow all procedures available.

6. Punishment is a sensitive issue. Therefore, there must be at least an appropriate witness to the process. So that when there is a problem somewhere, you have got other people present who are your witnesses.

7. Never administer punishment when you are angry. Don’t also administer it with malice. You can punish students inappropriately if you are angry or have some malice towards the student involved. Therefore, you are recommended to stay away from punishment if you are angry.

8. It is recommended not to ever use excessive force when giving out punishment to a student. Also, make sure you exercise good judgment in applying punishment.

9. Make sure you exhaust all alternative options to punishment. There are instances where students and/or their parents object to receiving punishment. When that happens, don’t administer it. Look for alternatives to the punishment through a thorough consultation with everyone involved.

10. Try as much as possible to follow your district or state’s policy on using punishment. Different countries, states, and districts have different opinions on the use of punishment. They provide policy documents and guidelines on the dos and don’ts of administering it. Doing that will save you all the troubles.   


To conclude, we explored what punishment is and understood the challenges of using it in the classroom. But if you choose to use it, we have provided some guidelines on how to administer it effectively. Thank you for staying around. Please, share with others to also benefit from the article.

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