As a therapist I have had to educate several parents through the years that their “creative consequences” were not acceptable to the state agencies that regulate children’s safety. These agencies are called different things in different states, but Child Protective Services or Department of Child or Family Services. Just some of the punishments that are prohibited in Indiana include physical exercise or requiring to take an uncomfortable position. I suppose the military is all about push-ups and running with packs, but I was surprised to hear that Abercrombie & Fitch store managers in Milan were using similar techniques. The Italian labor union wasn’t very impressed either.
For our children, using exercise as a punishment can teach our children to see exercise as a negative thing to be avoided. Using physical activity as a consequence will not promote health. For our children, we want to make fitness and exercise fun and something they want to do.
Teaching children to use exercise as a coping skill can be done without the use of punishment. As adults, we may use exercise to release feelings of stress or anger or perk us up when are feeling down. When I am frustrated, the fastest way to break out of it is to grab my running shoes, turn up my music, and hitting the pavement. We can show our children how we deal with such feelings with exercise. We can talk to them about it improves mood for us. We can even ask them if they want to try it. All of that is very different than sending a kid to run laps around the house because you are not thrilled with his or her current behavior. The difference is “when I am angry sometimes I feel better when I go for a run – would you like me to go for a run with you?” rather than “that is enough! I don’t want you to come back inside until you have run 10 laps around the house”.
Forcing adults to do push-ups or squats as punishment for mistakes is certainly not going to create a healthy working environment. Humans make mistakes Hopefully, they do not want to make mistakes, and they will be more careful in the future. Abercrombie tends to hire people who are already in shape, so it’s unlikely that the workouts are doing more than embarrassing the employees. Humiliation usually does not create loyal employees. On the other hand, they may look at it like the teen who says “I can be late for curfew, all I have to do is listen to my dad rant for a while”. I doubt this policy is doing much for the business, but I would guess the Italian labor union will not let it continue.