Growing Together – April 2014 edition

Tips on Parenting & Relationships

By Ross Fields, CPE and Kathleen Fields, CPE
Munjoy Hill Observer, April, 2014

 Punishment, Reward, Bribe . . . What do they really teach?

One of the toughest topics we work with is that of asking parents to eliminate punishment, reward or a bribe as disciplinary tools in raising their children.  Do any of these sound familiar:

  • “Why wouldn’t I use punishment and reward? My parents used it and I turned out just fine.”
  • “How are they going to learn if I don’t ground them or take their stuff away?”
  • “Hey, I knew exactly what I did wrong and I deserved my punishment.”
  • “I give my kids $100 for every A on their report card. Now that’s motivation!”
  • “As long as you’re under my roof, this is how it is.”
  • “Spanking is not abuse.”

The use of corporal punishment is never an option.  We can’t think of a single circumstance where a child’s learning ability or experience is enhanced by being physically struck.  Enough said.

Punishment erodes self-worth and limits your child’s character.

Punishment and reward, or the use of a bribe, are not effective tools for developing your child’s sense of responsibility, internal motivation, and personal accomplishment, which any parent would want for their child.  A punishment or reward does create the illusion of correcting a behavior, but only in the short term.  Eventually, you won’t be able to come up with a punishment that is severe enough, a reward valuable enough, or a bribe enticing enough to change the behavior that has now become a habit.  Punishment creates resistance and the desire for revenge or getting even, not cooperation.  The use of reward slowly strips away the desire to create and succeed.

If you want your child to be dependent on someone else for their happiness, for their direction in life, then by all means, keep using punishment and reward to control their behavior.  The question is: what happens when no one is around to administer the proper punishment or dole out a just reward?

Think about the last time you were humiliated or treated unfairly, punished or didn’t receive a just reward.  Did you feel like, “OK, wow, I deserved it. Thanks. I am ready to cooperate now.  You can count on me. I am just all smiles and feel so good about myself.” Probably not.  A child, not wanting to suffer embarrassment or humiliation, may become an approval junkie, giving up a big part of who he or she is in order to please others.  Do you know any approval junkies?

Giving up the use of punishment and reward doesn’t mean that your household becomes a lawless jungle.  It just means that you learn how to come together to create and agree upon the rules that all can live with. There will always be conflict that can effectively be solved without resorting to punishment or reward.  We’re all more willing to follow rules that we’ve helped establish.

In the May edition of Growing Together, we’ll explain what to use in place of punishment, reward or bribe.  Until then we have an assignment for you.  If you’re currently using corporal punishment we ask you to just put that aside for now.  If and when the urge arises, remove yourself from the situation.  Give yourself a moment to calm down.  Once calm, go back and just simply state that you need to work through the problem, calmly, and come up with a solution that works for both of you.  We know this sounds simplified.  The main thing is stopping and calming down before proceeding.  You can do this.  It will be worth it.

Next, we want you to create a list of the instances where you use punishment or reward/bribe in disciplining your child.  Awareness is a powerful tool.  Then, in May, as promised, we will discuss effective alternatives. Thank you for your willingness to take a look at doing it differently, to parenting deliberately.

And as always . . . with patience, education, and practice, you will become a more confident and effective parent.

It’s ALL about the relationship.

Ross Fields & Kathleen Fields are
Certified Parenting Educators (CPE) and
co-founders of Results Parenting, LLC