Punishment in Education


Punishment in parenting is a controversial issue. Until well into the 20th century, punishment was one of the cornerstones of raising children. Punishments can look very different, so a beating was common in the 19th century. Today, children are at least legally protected from physical violence.

In BGB §1631 it says that children have a right to a non-violent upbringing. There are still punishments in upbringing, but they look very different nowadays. A punishment can be a TV ban or a game ban.

What is allowed?

A punishment is either an unpleasant consequence or consequence that follows negative behavior on the part of the child or the termination or absence of a pleasant situation for the child as a consequence of his or her behavior. Mild penalties are permitted. For example, if a child does not tidy up their children's room as agreed, the punishment can be that they have to put the dishwasher in and out of the dishwasher for the next few days.

Another example is when an older child comes home far too late after soccer practice. Then the punishment can be that the child is not allowed to go to soccer practice for a week. The child then has to forego a pleasant situation and in the best case learns from the wrongdoing. For example:

  • TV ban, no computer or cell phone

  • As a consequence, renouncing the pleasant (soccer training, playing with friends)

  • House arrest

  • Housekeeping (e.g. loading and unloading the dishwasher for 3 days)

What is not allowed?

Children have the right to a non-violent upbringing without exception. This means that any form of physical punishment and emotional harm is absolutely forbidden. A slap on the bottom, a slap in the face and even more drastic measures such as blows with a cane or belt, as was common in the past, are strictly forbidden. Violence against children as a punishment in their upbringing is by no means allowed. Any form of punishment that hurts the child's soul is also prohibited.

In addition, children should not be punished too often, as this weakens their self-esteem and causes lack of motivation and passivity. Punishments should only be used if the child can learn from the logical consequences of the wrongdoing. It must be able to understand the consequences of its actions.This means that punishments that the child cannot understand are not allowed because they serve no purpose.

You might also be interested in this article: Chastisement


  • If a punishment is a consequence of the child's actions, there is a logical consequence for the child - the child learns from his behavior.

  • If the child's behavior leads to a consequence that is associated with the lack of a pleasant situation (e.g. football training), the child will try to avoid this in the future. Since they want to continue their soccer training, the child will come on time in the future.

  • Children learn that there are consequences for their behavior. This way they learn to follow rules, which makes school life or later their professional life less complicated.

A so-called mixed form of a permissive and authoritarian education is called "authoritative education". Read our article on this Authoritative upbringing.


  • Frequent punishments lead to the child's lack of self-esteem. The child loses motivation and becomes increasingly passive over time.

  • The child does not understand punishments that are not logically related to the child's misconduct. It is then unable to correct its wrongdoing.

  • Punishments in upbringing can create a distance between the child and the parents. The child can become afraid of doing something wrong or disappointing the parents.

What is education without punishment like?

An upbringing without punishment can look like the parents take the children out of a situation and come to rest together. You calm down and talk together about the child's wrongdoing and try to explain to the child what he did wrong and why it is important that the child no longer makes this mistake in the future.

In addition, it is important to give the child the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Every now and then you can give the child a second chance to learn from their behavior. If you have the impulse to punish the child for their wrongdoing, you can pause for a moment. If you have the feeling that you have acted abusively, you can also apologize to the child and dissolve the sentence.

An essential aspect of an upbringing without punishment is the mutual discussion about the topic. Parents and child sit down and discuss the child's actions. You look for a solution together and decide together. Sometimes it can be a good opportunity to do activities together to relax and slow down after a conflict.

When the mood at home changes, a pillow fight can turn everyone else's thoughts. In an upbringing without punishment, the bond between parent and child is important. A “free” upbringing requires a good relationship. Playing together, reading books or painting strengthens the bond between parents and child enormously and can make it easier to sit out in difficult situations.

You can find more detailed information on a parenting style in which the free development of the child is in the foreground under the article: Anti-authoritarian education.

Psychological Aspects of Punishment in Education

There are forms of punishment that can have negative developmental effects on the child's development. "The quiet chair", "the quiet staircase" or the child facing the corner are punishments that are offensive, derogatory and humiliating for the child. They are destructive and not constructive.

The same applies to frequent penalties. If a child is punished very often, it is anything but nice for a child. It reduces the self-esteem enormously and leads to the fact that the child behaves more passively and loses motivation in many things.

Psychologists recommend logical consequences in education. Depending on the author, this is described as a punishment or an upbringing free of punishment. Logical consequences are consequences of a child's misconduct. If a child does something wrong and understands the effects of the mistake, the child learns from it because there is a logical connection with the wrongdoing.

Psychologists advise parents to think carefully about what punishment will do. A punishment in the upbringing only makes sense if the child learns from it and understands its wrongdoing.

This topic could also be of interest to you: Educational Tools - Which Are The Most Useful? or parenting advice

What does punishment look like in school?

Unfortunately, there are sensible and senseless forms of punishment in school. Today there are still teachers who yell at children or, if they behave unpleasant, put them in the corner in front of the whole class. These forms of punishment are an absolute no-go.

Appropriate penalties at school are detention if a child repeatedly forgets their homework or detention if a child forgets their math book five times despite being announced. The teacher may require the child to do additional homework, give up detention, leave the child in detention or exclude the child from school events or trips.

He may issue a reference to the parents and enter the child in the class register. In severe cases, the child may be excluded from class or transferred to a parallel class. However, the teacher cannot arbitrarily punish children. Punishment must be related to the child's misconduct, appropriate, and meaningful.

Parents should intervene if the teacher goes too far. A teacher is not allowed to hit, yell at, insult, or perform in front of a class, for example because of a bad grade.

A teacher must not encroach on the child's privacy to such an extent that he reads a piece of paper out loud between two children or holds a child's cell phone for more than a school lesson and lets messages through.

You can find more information about the educational mandate at school at Educational mandate.