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#MicroblogMondays 119: Punishments and Rewards

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Spend any time on Donald Trump’s Twitterfeed and you’ll see him listing out various people and actions that deserve punishment.  Companies that move jobs out of the US will be punished.  People who burn the flag will be punished.  Reporters who criticize him will be punished, countries that won’t make trade deals he likes will be punished, and politicians who work against him will be punished.  He is really big on talking about punishments.

It’s easy to see the possible outcome of those punishments.  Tax companies that move jobs out of the US?  They can pass along the higher cost to the consumer.  Or they can have massive layoffs in the US in order to keep the remaining jobs on US soil.  Also, if you look at each punishment he lists, it’s rarely the individual or company that bears the brunt of the punishment.  It’s you and you and you (and me) as the side effects of those punishments trickle down to the rest of society.

We parent without punishment.  Josh and I are clearly on the anti-punishment side of the behavioural psychology punishment/rewards argument.  It’s a decision that stems from how I ran my classroom as a teacher: I educated without punishment, too.  To be completely honest, we also parent without rewards, unless you see the natural consequence of being a trustworthy, kind individual resulting in beneficial situations as an incentive.  But if I could only get rid of one option, I’d go with getting rid of punishments.

Based on your life experience, which do you believe works better: Rewards or punishments?


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1. Random Thoughts Naba | Parenting Vulnerability 13. Parul Thakur | Happiness & Food 25. Virgí nia
2. Food For Thought | Nom Nom 14. knottedfingers 26. Jess
3. Different Shores 15. Shail 27. Cyn K
4. Middle Girl 16. Cristy 28. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled)
5. That’s Ms. Infertile to you 17. Traci York, Writer 29. Jenn P
6. Lori Lavender Luz 18. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) 30. Mali (No Kidding)
7. Unpregnant Chicken 19. Just Heather 31. Mali (A Separate Life)
8. 35jupe 20. Failing at Haiku 32. Mary Francis
9. Isabelle 21. Amber 33. Empty Arms, Broken Heart
10. Who Shot Down My Stork? 22. Nonsequiturchica
11. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable 23. deathstar
12. Jennifer 24. Tas IVFer


1 Nabanita Dhar { 12.05.16 at 5:48 am }

I think neither. Neither punishments nor rewards, one shouldn’t do or not do something keeping either in mind when it comes to parenting or raising children. That’s what I feel.

2 Beth { 12.05.16 at 5:59 am }

I prefer not to use either as well but rewards are far more effective when necessary. My very sensitive, anxiety-ridden child is terrified of new experiences, even things that seem as basic as saying hi to another student in her class. So, to a very limited degree,
we offer rewards (external motivation) for attempting new experiences we believe are ultimately beneficial. What has worked for us is allowing her to realize the joy in these experiences and feel the internal motivation, with just a little push.

3 Cristy { 12.05.16 at 7:16 am }

Grey and I were talking about this. Our condo building just passed a dog DNA testing ordinance. After 2 yrs of poop in the building and no change after massive education efforts, we decided to head off the growing frustration/disgust by DNA testing all the dogs so we can test any waste that now appears. The one family that is strongly suspected to be the issue wasn’t going to change otherwise (we suspect they still won’t).

I don’t like Trump’s threats and temper tantrums. I think they are completely hollow and worthless. I do think we need to do something about retaining jobs in the U.S. But it has to be a holistic effort.

And I’m very curious about your parenting philosophy. Please share (recommended reading?).

4 Nicoleandmaggie { 12.05.16 at 7:30 am }

Clarification though: he talks punishment but actually bribed that Indiana company with tax cuts. No matter how one parents, consistency and predictability are important.

5 Different Shores { 12.05.16 at 7:40 am }

I remember a few horrible punishments from when I was a child/teenager and they definitely colour the memory you have of your parents. I was often punished for things they suspected me of having done, which has stayed with me forever. If a child fears its parents (and their punishments), it can turn to hatred quite easily. Best to parent without punishment, I’d say.

6 Middle Girl { 12.05.16 at 7:58 am }

I was punished severely during a period of my childhood. Often for mis-deeds not my own. I turned the tables when parenting my own kids, i.e. little to no punishment. There wasn’t much in the way of rewards either. I found that fostering an environment for independent thought and allowing consequences (good and not so) to flavor experiences based on choices made to work for our unit.

7 a { 12.05.16 at 8:26 am }

Punishments seem to have a more lasting effect than rewards, in my experience. Our society operates on the idea that punishment works, but the system is clearly messed up in terms of expected outcomes. Threats of punishment have never been a deterrent to anyone, although punishment may deter someone from doing something again.

We try to discuss unacceptable behavior and why it’s unacceptable, and punishments are generally more like time outs than anything. But when that doesn’t work, we have had to up the ante and deny attendance at a party or cancel a promised activity once or twice. They’re not natural consequences, but the natural consequences aren’t always immediate and obvious. In those situations, I feel like something more is warranted.

8 torthuil { 12.05.16 at 8:32 am }

Depends how you define “punishment and reward,” I suppose. I don’t believe it’s possible to live in a human social unit, be that as small as a couple or a big as a political state, without rules, punishments and rewards. The basic requirement of any group of people is that there are rules for belonging and consequences of not following them. Otherwise it wouldn’t survive as a group. A punishment can range from a dirty look to a firing squad. I could not take seriously any who claims to never give another person a dirty look or reprimand; and anyway half an hour (at most) of observing their behaviour who prove otherwise. Donald Trump’s tweets are basically public shaming, a preferred 21st century punishment, taken to a new level by the Internet. (Anyone who has ever written a critical comment about something the others can see, has participated in public shaming.) It works for him (in so far as it works) the same way that it works for everyone else, including his political opponents.

9 Ms. Infertile { 12.05.16 at 8:45 am }

As a childfree person, I will speak what works for me. I love rewards and works for me when I set up a specific goal; I have fallen into the punishing idea before, like I will take X if I don’t do Y, but for me, a grown adult, it just doesn’t work. I like rewards and even stickers showing my progress.

10 Working mom of 2 { 12.05.16 at 10:00 am }

Yes! After he did this I thought that’s like bribing a toddler with dessert to eat their dinner. From then on the toddler will expect dessert in order to eat its dinner. In other words, the toddler won.

11 Risa { 12.05.16 at 10:50 am }

Like Cristy, I’m curious about your parenting? Future blog post? Readings?

I can’t even comment on Trump, because I despise everything about him. But in regards to your question, I would rewards. However, I was punished as a child. I do believe in having a healthy respect toward your parents. I think when she’s older, I will gear as much as I can toward reward, but I am not sure I can go without punishing her.

12 SRB { 12.05.16 at 10:52 am }

I am raising my kids without (physical) punishment as a direct result of being raised with it. Consequences, yes. Punishment, no.

As for the Toddler-Elect…oy. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t real life and therefore terrifying.

13 Jennifer { 12.05.16 at 11:37 am }

Whew, this is a tough one. With our kiddo, we do discipline – positive feedback as appropriate, and consequences as needed. It’s more about teaching than anything else. There really isn’t a one size fits all answer for kids or grownups. What motivates one person might have no value to another. Ditto for punishments. Unfortunately this kind of nuance is lost on the Orange Buffoon.

14 Parul Thakur { 12.05.16 at 11:55 am }

I think personally for me, neither rewards nor punishments work for me. There has to be an intrinsic driver of my actions and that keeps me going. The rewards if they come from my actions, they are welcomed and a punishment is a lesson. In many ways.

15 Lori Shandle-Fox { 12.05.16 at 12:44 pm }

Before I had kids I would have probably said: “rewards” because it sounded better & more politically correct. But since I’ve had my kids, I haven’t really found either to have much impact. At school they have “dojo” points as rewards and some of the teacher use them to bribe the kids. (“The first to clean up will get 3 Dojo points”.) I just tell them how well they’re doing. They’ve caught on to our system. I’ll tell my son: “You did great on that project. I’m so proud of you. You should be very proud of yourself too.” And he’ll say, clearly knowing what my response will be: “Don’t I get a reward?” To which I will say: “You just got it. I said that I’m proud of you and you, hopefully, are also proud of you. Weren’t you here when I just said it?”

16 Sharon { 12.05.16 at 1:01 pm }

Your post title made me think of the Alfie Kohn book “Punished by Rewards.” (A really good read, btw.)

In parenting, we use rewards and punishment at times, although mostly we try to empathize with our children and talk to them about why certain behaviors are important or undesirable. I am hoping to have more success with this approach and use rewards and punishment less as they mature (they are currently 4).

17 knottedfingers { 12.05.16 at 1:18 pm }

Neither really carry much sway on my kids right now. They are both doing the hormonal pre-teen/teen thing so yeah. We just kind of are hoping for the best. Allowance is getting them to do their chores though! LOL

Also I cheated on the microblog round up. I shared an actual post I wrote today instead of a short one lol

18 nonsequiturchica { 12.05.16 at 2:49 pm }

Another problem I have with the way Trump is already doing things? He doesn’t think of the consequences (much like a toddler). Sure the Carrier deal sounds like a good thing- saving 1000 jobs- but now every company is going to fake they are going to move out of the country in order to get tax breaks from the states.

We do some rewards, but not a lot of punishments. We definitely don’t do any physical punishments.

19 Click { 12.05.16 at 3:23 pm }

I prefer incentives and rewards to punishment. I’ve always felt that you shouldn’t need an incentive to do the right thing, but random rewards for doing it are a nice little boost to remind you why it’s good to make the right choice.

In terms of punishments, I think it’s always important to make the punishment not only fit the crime but the person it’s intended for. When I was 12 my dad’s girlfriend decided to ‘ground’ me for not tidying the bedroom I shared with her daughter. At the age of 12 I felt this was unfair because the mess wasn’t mine, I’d already cleared my things away, and told her so.

She decided to ground me. But I was a bookish sort of child and had no intentions of going out anyway, so I sat in reading. At which point she took my book away from me. So I felt like I was being doubly punished, for cleaning up my things (just not someone else’s) and for reading.

I think if someone’s going to be punished, then it needs to be carefully thought out and explained just why they’re receiving that punishment. But a lot of the time punishments are just a gut reaction and very little thought beyond ‘this will make me feel better’ is involved.

20 Traci York { 12.05.16 at 3:25 pm }

I’ve found sometimes both have been useful, and other times, not at all. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my gut when deciding how to handle certain situations, and luckily for me (NOT! LOL!) my gut is unpredictable.

21 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 12.05.16 at 4:01 pm }

Parenting without punishment is a new concept to me. I’d be open to learning more, though, especially since I feel a lot of the punishment I received growing up was undeserved and/or unhelpful.

22 Amber { 12.05.16 at 4:55 pm }

Both? This is definitely food for thought, and I enjoyed reading all the other comments and viewpoints. Right now, we do time outs. I hope that as our kids get older, we can find a happy medium of discipline and rewards. Punishment sounds a little too harsh.

23 TasIVFer { 12.05.16 at 6:02 pm }

I prefer incentives, such as earning a Spider-Man t-shirt after x many trips to the toilet or y many nights without a wet nappy. However it’s not flawless. Last night Sparky wanted a chocolate frog because he ate his dinner; I had to explain that dinner is something he should eat anyway as his body needs food. I don’t know what I”m doing; I don’t know how to parent. I thought IVF and loss would make me a great parent, but there is no magical solution. I didn’t get any parenting information; just experience with IVF and loss. How is that fair? (My tongue is firmly in cheek – although really how is that fair?!)

24 Cyn K { 12.05.16 at 7:59 pm }

I think overcrowded prisons are evidence that punishments are not an effective deterrent.

25 Jess { 12.05.16 at 7:59 pm }

Trump’s punishments scheme sounds very alarming, but also very blustery. I’m with you on the natural consequences. I don’t punish a lot at school which makes when it does happen very noteworthy… I am more likely to call a parent than I am to give a detention, mostly because detention lasts only so long and parent conversations with a child are usually SO MUCH MORE effective long term (but I guess I’m just passing the punishment buck). I have chronic late people, and I have a three strike rule that clears every quarter, so there’s always the opportunity to redeem yourself. Rewards are tricky, because you can have people working for the reward and lose intrinsic motivation, but don’t we all work for rewards in a way? A paycheck is a reward…a glass of wine at the end of the day is a reward… so I guess rewards over punishment. 😉

26 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.05.16 at 8:02 pm }

Awareness of natural consequences. Not punishments.

27 Jenn P { 12.05.16 at 9:59 pm }

I don’t really punish but would love to learn more about not using either. They don’t work anyway. Mine’s in a very defiant stage (for him) and I would love to figure out some new patterns of interacting with him.

28 Mary Francis { 12.06.16 at 7:24 am }

As a teacher, I worked for a co-operative consensual classroom with rules we made together to maintain a safe and happy class. Reminders and reflection were all I used.

The children were amazing, though I think the technique of insisting combatants spent time a. Coming up with a story I could believe, and b. Told the other person’s side of it, was effective simply because the offenders got bored doing it.

Once I got really mad.

“I am getting really mad at you” I said. “I am going to take a time out. I will walk round the outside of the building, and when I return, I expect you all to be quiet and on task.”

Bless their hearts, they were!

(Spoiler Alert: I was Principal (and a teacher) in a village school with only 50 students. It was easy.)

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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