Parenting through punishment and reward

Our society, schools, judicial system, way of parenting, is built on punishment and reward.

If your child does something “naughty” you apply a punishment. If your child does something well you give him/her a reward.

Sounds good and right doesn’t it?

So, why then, do I see so many parents who are confused and struggling, when they are clearly doing what society approves of – reward and punishment? A lot of parents are really struggling with their children’s behaviour. If you have more than one child, it’s a fair bet that one of your kids challenges you on a daily basis.

I think that when parents hear the word “punishment”, they automatically think they have to be mean in order to “teach the child a lesson”. I have heard some parents say that they want to pay the child back (revenge) for his/her behaviour.

You don’t have to be mean. How do you feel when someone is mean to you?

Children are people too.

Parenting is a balance between taking charge and being kind.

There are times when you have to take charge to keep your kids safe and let them know about the limits. And in between times you can be kind.

But you can also be kind whilst taking charge.

When you think of “punishment”, do you think – payback? revenge? anger? drawing a line? hurting your child to make a point?

Now, change the word “punishment” to “education” or “guidance”.

Does that change how you might approach you child’s mistaken behaviour next time?

Of course, if your child is about to step in front of a car, you don’t say “Sweetie, I don’t think that’s a good idea”. No, you quickly pick him up and bring him to safety. But most issues of mistaken behaviour are not life and death.

You can actually take a moment to breathe and think “what is the best way to handle this so my child will actually learn something here?”.  I call this “Stop, Breathe, Think, then Do”. If you react immediately to your child’s behaviour, you are likely to do what your parents did to you. How did you feel when you were a kid, and your parents hit, screamed at, called you names, rejected you?

Realistically is your child going to learn the lesson immediately, first go? Nah, you are going to have to repeat the lesson many more times for your child to “get it”. What will be most effective in the long run? Taking the education/guidance approach, or being mean?


Categories: Encouraging Desirable Behaviour, Managing Mistaken Behaviour


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