Rejecting the Reward-Punishment Model
Most people were raised with some form of the reward-punishment model of discipline. Our caregivers rewarded us with their praise, food, or material things when we did what they liked or thought was good. When we didn't do what the caregiver wanted, made a mistake, or struggled we were punished with disapproval, by removal of material things, physically, or through a loss of attention and love. Our caregivers used rewards and punishments to manipulate our behaviors to try to get us to do what was right, good, or pleasing to them. This was a long standing model but now we know more about how children's brains work and we can reject this model for another way.
Rewards and Punishments Add Stress
When children are working to learn a new skill, having a conflict, or trying to navigate their world and an adult comes in with a reward or punishment to manipulate their decision that adds to the stress of the situation. Now the stakes of something a child was working on just became even bigger. Adding a reward or punishment is kind of like doubling down on children's stress.
Rewards and Punishments Do Not Teach
A child that is punished for choosing not to do what a caregiver asks, making a mistake, or struggling does not learn how to make a different choice the next time. A punishment doesn't teach children our values or help children learn a missing skill that would reshape their decision when faced with similar problems. Similarly, rewards offer no value in terms of teaching. Rewarding children's good decisions or success does not help children learn what 'good' is or why something is 'good' and rewards don't provide children insight into their success to help them replicate it.
Rewards and Punishments Promote Decision Making Based on Extrinsic Motivators
When a reward or punishment is used by a caregiver it effects the child's decision making. Children may change their decision to try to get a reward or avoid a punishment. This change children's attention from decision making that is consistent with our values and meeting the needs of our community and toward making decisions base on extrinsic rewards and punishments. As we consider our long-term goals for children we can see rewards and punishments erode children's development of sound decision making skills.
Rewards and Punishments Disconnect Us
When a trusting adult imposes rewards or punishments it adds distance to the adult child relationship. The reward punishment model uses power over children placing the child and adult at odds. The trusting relationship children use to choose to be helpful is now threatened. When a child is questioning a decision, has made a mistake, or needs help they may not go to the trusting adult because they fear the removal of a reward or implementation of a punishment.
Committing to Working With Your Child
We propose a 'working with' rather than a 'doing to' approach. Our authority in this method relies on leadership not dictatorship. We lead our children through strong and logical guidance. We accept that both children and caregivers have needs and that should be weighed equally. This is not permissive parenting. You do not give up your needs for your child's needs, you value both equally. We commit to working with our child's needs and our own and look for a win-win solution to problems. Working with your child means you listen and look for a way to meet everyone's needs through connection, compromise, and open problem solving.