The problem with punishment and reward

Shortly after my first child was born, my friend Branimir gave me a copy of Unconditional Parenting because, as he said, there should not be another child growing up without his parents having read this book. I’m glad he did.

When you pace, manipulate, punish, and reward your child into living up to certain expectations, to go in a certain direction, to be good at whatever it is you reward them for being good at, your child will lose his own compass. Whether it’s eating, sports, or business, the child will have a hard time telling whether he or she wants to do something because he really wants to, or because he wants the reward that comes with it. Even if the parents aren’t doling out rewards anymore.

I know it from first-hand experience, of course. In a few areas, I simply can’t tell whether it’s me wanting to do something in a certain way, or whether it’s me wanting to please my father or my mother. Sometimes all three of us get tangled up, and I get paralyzed trying to figure out which is which.

It’s an interesting, if not terribly unique, challenge. Reading the book made me understand what was really going on in those situations. It also made me want to not do the same to my own children.


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