Wait a minute! Are you aptly correcting your children or you are punishing them?

correctThe goal of punishment is to acknowledge your hurt and to share the pain of your hurt with the offender. It does not by any means transform behavior. On the other hand, the goal of correction is to bring the offender to a human state of acknowledgement of error, remorse, and to govern behaviour in a way that transforms the offender and blesses both his immediate environment and society at large. Studies have shown that over 90% of parents never correct in their lifetime, they only punish. Correction is about using positive reinforcement to govern behaviour. But without knowledge, the tendency of parents is to use negative, coercive, punitive means of stopping or eliminating behavior rather than positive, pleasant, reinforcing means of strengthening behavior. I mean, a child misbehaves, the parent immediately scolds, spanks, or screams at the child, and the inappropriate behavior stops. The immediate consequence of the scolding, spanking, or screaming was exactly what the parents wanted: the child immediately quit misbehaving. The parent has successfully acknowledged his or her hurt and has swiftly shared the pain of the hurt with the child. Correction has not taken place. The child has not learnt anything. Furthermore, the parents’ behavior (that is, scolding, spanking or screaming) is also strengthened in the parent because it seems to be effective; hence it will certainly reoccur in the future when the child misbehaves again. And the child will misbehave again because the scolding, spanking, or screaming will have only a short-term effect on the child’s behavior.

Sadly, parents don’t see the reoccurrence of the child’s behavior as being a function of the scolding, spanking, or screaming. Rather, they will recall only that the scolding, spanking, or screaming stopped the behavior before and it will stop it again … and again and again and again and again and again. The point is that the more parents scold, spank, and scream to control their children’s behavior, the worse the children behave. You can be certain of it! The more parents scold, spank and scream to control their children’s behavior, the more their children’s behavior will invite scolding, spanking, and screaming because negative consequences are ineffective ways of controlling children’s behavior. Similar studies in classrooms have revealed exactly the same thing. The more teachers scold and scream at students to sit down and be quiet, the more the students will be out of their seats and rowdy. It is predictable. It’s science. It works even between adults. Even between husband and wife; between a senior colleague and a junior colleague at work. It is everywhere. And it is a scientific and automated behaviour in most people. The victims also learn that behaviour and use it within their own area of influence.

Now, correction is the better way. It delivers a far more positive result. Correction is to take advantage of the many opportunities that occur every day to attach a positive consequence to an appropriate behavior. That positive consequence can come in the form of a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement and praise, a smile, a wink, a token in a jar or a point on a good behavior record, and the list goes on. But what is really wonderful about this approach is that when used appropriately and consistently, the incidence of inappropriate behavior goes down dramatically while the incidence of appropriate behavior increases dramatically and is sustained. It is also predictable, and is also science. You can bet on it. It is lawful. It is a well established matter of fact that in homes where parents smile at their children, laugh with their children, have lots of positive and appropriate physical interactions with their children (hugging and kissing and patting), and talk to their children a lot in pleasant, supportive, nonjudgmental ways, the frequency of problem behaviors in those families goes down, down, down, and the frequency of pleasant parent-child relationships goes up, up, up!

As parents, we must not be seduced into believing that because we get immediate results from scolding, spankings, and screaming, that these are appropriate ways to respond to inappropriate behavior. They are not. In the long run, behavior responds better to positive than to negative consequences. Don’t be blinded by immediate, short-lived results, or by immediate, short-lived gains. There is an economy in child rearing, a price we must pay. If negative, aversive, coercive methods of control are not working (and they never do for long!), try a better way. Behavior seldom improves with harsh and negative consequences. Rather, plans to escape, despite the risks, are continually being devised. And so it is with children and coercion: they desire to escape, which they do joining gangs, cults, embracing substance abuse, jumping on any opportunity to leave home, dropping out of school, and just giving up! Parents tell me repeatedly, “I punish the child for that rotten behavior time and time again everyday and the kid continues to do it!” But in the light of this principle of human behavior, what is the matter with that analysis of the child’s behavior? The answer is simple and clear: The parent isn’t correcting the child at all. Rather, the child’s behavior is being reinforced. What the parent thinks he or she is doing is one thing but what the parent is really doing is another. The only way one can know what the parent is really doing to the behavior is by observing what happens to the behavior subsequently. If the behavior persists, no matter what the parent thinks he or she has done to it, the behavior has been reinforced. Punishment has taken place but correction has not occurred in the least. Rather, the behavior has been strengthened, and a behavior that has been strengthened is a behavior that will probably reoccur. Conversely, if the behavior gets weaker, or stops, then it has been corrected.

“When used effectively, positive reinforcement is the most powerful teaching tool we have.” Great parenting is possible. But on this altar of punishment, families have been ruined, children wrongly programmed to become malfunctioning adults and society is always the victim. I hope i’ve helped a bit? Let me get your feedbacks here. Stay sharp!



Posted on July 11, 2014, in Smooth-Life*Clinic* and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great, and it’s unlike African

  2. I sincerely appreciate individuals who think in forms such as this because i believe that our actions as individual predominantly begin with a selfish intention and with regards to parenting, it’s always mostly about the embarrassment, hurt, disappointment etc we feel as a result of the child’s behaviour or action and never really about an actual correction even though we kid ourselves that we are “correcting” .

  3. Thank you sir.

    I have one question. How do we teach (or show) a toddler that a particular behaviour that he/she expressed is wrong? Because toddlers may not know what is right and what is wrong.

  4. This is a balanced and inrealistic approach to parenting. Thanks for sharing this with parents and future parents like me.Positive reinforcement is well founded in Human Behavioural Psychology and it holds true anytime unfortunately our culture a product of which we are, got it all wrong in it’s approach.However, I still feel there is a use for the pain/gain or carrot and stick somewhere in between if it’s done to reinforce the positive that holds true in that situation on the basis of good communication and understanding as implied in this article too. Thank you Sir.

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