One common concept in traditional parenting is the idea that
“Rewarding bad behaviour in children only encourages it.
Instead there should be a negative consequence so that the child learns through
cause and effect that this action is undesirable and will change their behaviour pattern.”
This is backwards thinking.
Punishment Creates Undesirable Behaviour
Punishing, in any way (including the gentle euphemism “consequences”), to correct bad behaviour actually increases the likelihood of it being repeated. Bad behaviour either comes from pain or a lack of understanding.
The purpose of all punishment is to cause pain.
Whether it is physical pain of spanking
Or emotional pain through removal of privileges or a time-out.
If you add to the pain they are already experiencing you increase the cause of the bad behaviour.
And punishments in no way increase understanding.
In fact they decrease openness and willingness to learn.
Love Is The Healing Power
Filling the heart with love is the only way
to heal the pain and thereby heal the cause of the “bad” behaviour.
Dealing with the symptoms instead of the cause will always, only and forever reap superficial results.
Let us understand what is really making them feel bad when they are punished. It’s not the removal of privileges, it’s not the time alone, it’s not even the spanking (though all those things really do hurt). They are just the surface of the pain.
The real pain comes from the withdrawal of love.
We each are born knowing our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally
and when they punish us it hurts because
we feel they are withdrawing their love in those moments.
We depend on them for our emotional sustenance,
For our sense of well-being
For our foundational feeling of worth and self-esteem.
When that foundation is removed the pain is significant.
Punishment increases the very pain that was at the heart
of the behaviour we’re trying to correct in the first place.
Let us look briefly at a couple examples.
1) The time out
When a kid is given a time out they are being told by the people they love the most
And depend for their physical and emotional nourishment that
“I don’t want to be around you right now.
You are not worthy of my presence at this moment.”
I know you aren’t thinking that way, but please just imagine their point of view.
They feel that you are withdrawing your love and approval of them.
And this hurts.
Even if you connect with your kid after and discuss the issue with them
the love comes in after and the damage is done.
2) Removal of privileges
Any restriction of pleasure to modify behaviour is again using pain as a motivating factor.
And while it is upsetting to be denied candies, parties and video games,
the real pain, underlying the surface pain is the denial of love and acceptance.
It is using your power to control another person.
We are teaching that because you’re stronger
or have economic or housing power over them,
this also gives you the right to restrict their freedom.
I mention this because I think it’s important to recognize that this is a relational pain more than a practical one. By using love withdrawal as a way to teach proper behaviour we are damaging our relationship with our kids in a profound way.
This is an effect that will last a lifetime.
It puts a distance between you and your child that you may never be able to bridge.
Focus On The Learning
If we can let them sort right from wrong themselves instead of having it imposed upon them we are setting them up to become lifelong learners. This is how I have approach undesirable behaviours with my kid and the results are amazing.
We are better off inspiring them to think, to feel and to make conscious decisions
About how they treat people, how they treat things and what kind of people they want to be.
The trick is that this can only be done in an atmosphere of freedom.
The freedom to think, explore and trust their own exploration
about what is right from wrong is the EXACT OPPOSITE of punishment.
For if they are going to sort it out for themselves
we cannot punish them when they do it different from us.
Learning is a process. It takes time. It involves making many mistakes.
We must be patient as they go through this journey
and be by their side the whole way.
Love is the Key
True learning and growth come from love, communication and collaboration,
If you want a child to learn to behave better,
to be kinder and more considerate
and you inflict pain upon them in order to encourage them to do this…
Well I hope the inherent contradiction is obvious at this point.
This method will never work.
The only thing that they will do is think about how they are being treated badly,
how they can get away with it next time,
how to avoid the punishment in the future.
Pain Produces Selfishness
Love Produces… Well… More Love!
Even if they do end up being “good” in the future
it will be motivated by an avoidance of the punishment (the withdrawal of love)
and not from a natural and honest desire to do a good and loving thing.
Because the lesson was taught to them in a non-loving state.
This is a fundamentally selfish motivation.
The focus is on their own pain and pleasure,
rather than what they can do for another.
Do you not think it makes sense to teach love for its own sake
rather than as a way to avoid pain?
It’s fairly simple
In order to teach love we must give love.
If we withdraw love we can only teach the things that come from pain.