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Why We Don't Punish Plants

My partner just told me she was taught in kindergarten that plants need love. She grew up in a Spanish speaking culture and I quickly remembered the Spanish saying, "Te pego porque te amo" which I heard in South America. That means, "I hit you because I love you." So I asked her if they also taught that if the plants don't grow as you want them to, then you should hit them or punish them.

We immediately saw how ridiculous this concept would be. If a plant isn't "behaving," would we punish it by depriving it of something it needs, such as sunlight or water?

This thought is truly absurd. 1

So I wonder why someone came up with the idea that if a child isn't "behaving" as we would like it to, it should also be deprived of something it needs.

As Thomas Gordon helped us see, punishment is need-depriving as opposed to need-satisfying. 2

S. Hein
Sept 5, 2012
Porto, Portugal



1. The reason most people would believe it absurd to hit or punish a plant is because we all know what plants need. Unfortunately, we cannot yet say this about what children need. In particular, not enough people have realized that a child has certain basic and essential emotional needs, for example the need to feel safe.

I feel optimistic, though, that this knowledge is slowly, but surely, spreading around the world so that one day it will also be thought of as "absurd" to deprive a child of something it needs.

2. The specific quote by Gordon was, "Punitive discipline is by definition need-depriving as opposed to need-satisfying." From "How Children Really React to Control," Thomas Gordon

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