Withholding love

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Withholding love is a common type of psychological punishment, often used in modern parenting by parents who don't want to use corporal punishment (or who live in countries where corporal punishment is illegal by law).


This punishment consists of withholding (or minimizing) all or most ways in which a parent normally shows his or her affection and love for the child - such as smiles, friendly words, jokes and making fun, kisses, hugs, and cuddles. The child that has misbehaved is not given any 'active' punishment, such as a spanking or early bedtime, and doesn't get any official privileges removed either, but is merely treated in a cold and unemotional manner.

The punishment is related to withdrawing attention, but not the same: In withdrawing attention, the child is ignored, as if he/she didn't exist, whereas in withholding love, the child is not ignored - he/she is merely treated like a person who is physically inside, but emotionally outside the family.

The punishment usually lasts for an indefinite time until the child gives in, e.g. by admitting their guilt and apologizing, or by changing his/her attitude and behavior.

Pros and cons[edit]

Withholding love is easy to do and comes almost automatically when you're angry and force yourself to refrain from punitive action. It is an unofficial, subtle and almost invisible form of punishment. It has gained popularity in the course of the mid-20th century as a replacement for corporal and other traditional forms of punishment.

Withholding love can be cruel because the punishment consists of making the child feel unloved - more than in most other types of punishment. The suffering is 100% psychological with no physical pain at all, which in a way can make it worse. Even after the punishment is over, the relationship can be negatively affected for a long time.

The method can also be negative for the punisher because it forces them to preserve their negative feelings for a long and indefinite time, and may often make them feel miserable as well.

Withholding love in adult relationships[edit]

Withholding love is also found among adults, such as married or unmarried couples and lovers. Some people, such as supporters of domestic discipline, say it is much better to resolve such conflicts instead by means of corporal punishment, followed by immediate, full and unconditional forgiveness.