Why are we always so quick to want to punish?
I watched a school board meeting last night. They were arguing over policy and before they even had it set a couple of them wanted to decide on the punishment.
They were eager to chose a punishment for children starting at kindergarten!
What do they think punishing a small child is going to accomplish?
With rewards we can be sure that actions that are rewarded will be repeated.
Actions that are punished though, we never know what we have actually taught. We think we’ve put a stop to the behavior. We think they will think twice about doing that again. Punishment is very rewarding to the punisher. Instant gratification because it puts a stop to the behavior.
The one being punished may have learned something completely different. Often it is that the one doing the punishment is mean, they’re bad, they should be avoided. It can be that they should be careful not to repeat the behavior where they might be caught. Sometimes it is that they themselves are bad, not worthy, not good enough.
These are bad enough things to be teaching animals. Why would we want to teach that to our children?
Before jumping to punishment we should always look for other options. Can we change the situation that lead up to the problem? Can we encourage behavior that makes the undesired behavior unlikely or impossible? Can we educate people who are pushing for punishment?
I realize horses are harder to train than children. I have both and wish children were as easy as horses. I understand the difficulty. I don’t understand this as a solution.
Not punishing behavior doesn’t mean letting animals or children run wild. Boundaries are still set. We still expect behaviors we desire to be performed.
Especially in this case I refuse to call behaviors that are punished ‘bad’. Neither animals nor small children have any concept of ‘bad’ they are simply doing what comes naturally to them.
We are the ones calling them ‘bad’. How can the problem with teaching a small child they are ‘bad’ not be blindingly obvious?
Isn’t it better to teach them they are good? To seek out things we can be proud of them for?
We find what we seek in life. If we go around looking for bad things to punish then that is what we will find.
If we look for the good…
- The Strangest Positive Reinforcement Story I’ve Ever Heard
- Halloween Horrors