In her book The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey (a teacher) cites research about rewards and punishments.
In a nutshell: They don’t work.
She says, “Applying pressure in the form of control is the single most damaging thing parents and teachers can do to their children’s learning. Whether in the form of threats, bribes, deals, surveillance, imposed goals, evaluations, or even rewards and praise, control is the enemy of autonomy.”
This is not only true for academic learning, but for learning behavior too.
And if you grew up in a place like my childhood home, you have NO IDEA how to raise a kid that way. (When I was punished for lying, it didn’t make me want to be truthful. It made me want to be better at lying!)
That’s why there are so many parenting coaches and programs now, because we know better. Now we just have to learn and practice how to do it.
Here’s how I teach it in my program:
No rewards. No punishments. No yelling. No hitting or spanking. No random consequences.
No “if / then” parenting, “If you do this, then you’ll get a reward,” or “If you do this, then you’ll get punished.”
There’s no manipulation, but there are boundaries and expectations.
The primary expectation in my house is kindness, for all family members. We have values like safety, health, love, and respect.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know what we do instead of punishing a child. We do three things:
1. Maintain your composure. (Try yawning on purpose.)
2. Talk about feelings, “You’re feeling ____ because ____.”
3. Talk about values, “You care about ____.”
We do these three steps over and over. It helps build autonomy, integrity, and self-awareness. And when we maintain our composure as parents, it helps our children learn how to self-regulate too.
But what do we do instead of rewards?
It’s basically the same. Talk about feelings, “You’re feeling proud of the work you did.” Talk about values, “You care about your work, and you like to do a good job.”
In addition, if they’re feeling really good, teach them how to celebrate and express their happiness. Dance in the kitchen. Run around the block. Raise your hands in the air together as a family and give a “WooHoooo!”
If you’re working on making this transition, to have a house with no rewards or punishments, catch yourself when you’re successful. Celebrate your own small victories. Smile to yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. Raise your hands in the air and say, “Yes! I’m doing it!!” You’ll motivate yourself that way.
It feels good to feel good.
That’s true intrinsic motivation (no rewards or punishments involved).
Hire me to help you make this transition. Contact me here.