Why Punishments Don’t Work


Picture these scenarios:


Meet Jamie.

Jamie has a messy bedroom. He cannot find anything. Letters from school are lost and homework is left to the last minute. So mum nags him and get cross.

“Tidy your room. Where’s your letter? Why are you leaving everything until the last minute?”

Things escalate and eventually Jamie storms off, slams the door and swears. He is then banned from the XBox for the rest of the evening.

Being angry with Jamie and taking away the XBox will not make him tidier, more organised or more motivated to get things done on time.

The consequence: Family bust-ups, late night tantrums and last minute frantic panic. None of these will help Jamie manage better next time.


Meet Sara and her brother Robbie.

Sara is the older sibling but you wouldn’t know it. Her social and emotional skills are lagging behind her younger brother. Robbie has many friends and gets invited to birthday parties. Sara has only only one friend that mum has organised. During holiday times Sara is lonely and isolated. She sees Robbie out with his friends and it makes her feel angry and cross. So she ends up hitting her brother. Mum takes away her laptop and makes her apologise. Sara will still feel angry, sad and lonely.

The consequence: Sara’s relationship with her brother will be affected as she feels unjustly punished. She will feel even angier if her laptop is taken away.


Meet Sophie.

Sophie cannot focus in class. She is a dreamer. She misses what she needs to do as her brain is overloaded with other thoughts and ideas. Consequently she doesn’t get her work finished and has to stay in at break to catch-up. The teachers are always telling mum that Sophie has great potential to do better.

Making her miss playtime makes Sophie sad and cross. It will not make her focus more or try harder next time.

The consequence: Sophie misses the opportunity to socialise, get fresh and exercise. She feels stupid and frustrated. She wishes she could focus more but her brain is too busy.


Meet Harry.

Harry likes to move. He fidgets and interferes in everyone else around him. He finds socialising difficult and hasn’t got to grips with acceptable social boundaries. He is extremely creative but often his ideas are ignored.

Last week he got really angry as he was shamed in front of the whole school assembly as somehow the Headteacher knows his name…He felt embarrassed and picked on. At break time he snapped when the other boys wouldn’t let him play. He called the boy an idiot. He was sent to stand by the wall which made him feel like crying. He didn’t want anyone to see so instead his feelings turned to anger and he hit a girl standing nearby. He was then excluded for one day.

The consequence: Harry is being turned off school as he sees it as a place where he feels blamed, his ideas ignored and it makes him feel angry. He can promise not to hit again but he knows that things the teachers do will make him angry.

We all know children like Jamie, Sara, Sophie and Harry. These are made-up characters but they could be children in every class in every school.

Our children are being blamed, shamed and punished. And none of these things will actually change the behaviour of our children with ADHD.

Let’s look again and see what these children actually need to help them thrive and flourish:


Jamie is disorganised.

So he needs support and help:

  • Visual reminders
  • A place for everything – a box where he puts his homework or a hook where he hangs his keys
  • Alarms on a phone
  • Checklists or post-its where he’ll see them to remind him
  • Calendar with clear dates marked when he needs to do things by
  • Day planner
  • He should not be punished


Sara finds making friends difficult.

So she needs support and help:

  • Social Stories to give her the language to use in social situations
  • Social skills games
  • Role model appropriate language and behaviour
  • Socialise in suitable environments – clubs where there will be like-minded children or large open spaces
  • Do not listen to siblings whinging about behaviour
  • Notice and praise when she gets it right
  • She should not be punished


Sophie has Inattentive ADHD and is trying her best but is under-achieving.

So she needs support and help:

  • Teachers need educating and training about Inattentive ADHD
  • Sophie needs to sit in an area with less distraction
  • She needs small steps
  • Her task should be written on a board in front of her so it is clear
  • She needs writing frames and word mats
  • She should not be punished


Harry has to keep moving. He is well known in school as a trouble-maker but he is extremely creative and his talents are going unnoticed.

So he needs support and help:

  • Allow Harry to sit on a chair rather than the carpet. Or sit with his back against a chair leg for support
  • Give movement breaks every 10 minutes
  • Have a kick-band on the feet of a chair
  • Keep a water bottle on the table
  • Allow fidget equipment that doesn’t distract anyone else such as blutak or an elastic band round his wrist
  • Harry to use his own methods to record his work – laptop, 3D model, poster
  • Give Harry opportunities to shine by showing of his skills and talents
  • Listen to Harry
  • He should not be punished


Punishing our children with ADHD does not work.

A punishment will not change their behaviour next time. A punishment will not make our children focus harder, sit still, be more organised, be more sociable, understand social norms, remember an instruction. All a punishment will do is make our children feel sadder, crosser and more frustrated.

So we need systems in place that will support our children and make them feel happy, included and motivated. Shaming and blaming doesn’t work.

💛Kindness and understanding does.

Let me know how you get on.soli-2

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I am putting on a fabulous 2 day retreat just for 15 mums:

  • Therapeutic sessions such as hand massage,gong bath and reflexology
  • Outdoors sessions amongst the beautiful grounds of the hotel to practice stretching and mindfulness
  • Art and music sessions to have fun and reconnect with you – you’re not just someone’s mummy or wife. Get back a sense of you
  • Movie night – chill and relax with popcorn and a glass of wine
  • Learn from  experts who will inspire you with strategies to help your child
  • BONUS *1:1 consultation with Soli to work out where the difficulties are with your child*

I am limiting this retreat to only 15 mums. Many places have been booked already. This is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in learning, relaxation and having fun.

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