Parenting our twin daughters has been a hands-on journey for my wife and me. It has never been a case that we started with set thoughts on how we are going to raise our daughters. Each of the daily experiences leaves a mark and we try to apply ourselves about how we could have done better.
It has happened a number of times that without a conscious realization, we start acting in a definitive manner. It is only when we get questioned / when we get the time to think about our own doing that we realize what we are putting into action. One of such aspects of our parenting that I recently realized was a belief of parenting without rewards and punishments.
Why would I believe in parenting without rewards and punishments?
Rewards and punishments are one and the same
Rewards and punishments are of course diametrically opposite. However, for me, one cannot exist without the other. I believe that punishments do not deliver the desired results in a child. If this is the case, I also believe that rewards too will not deliver the desired results in a child.
For me to believe in rewards, I also need to believe in punishments. A perceived positive action needs to be balanced out by a perceived negative action. Else, the dice get loaded in one direction.
I would rather be neutral, for once, in this scenario and avoid both.
Intrinsic motivation of the child
I see my daughters stretching their boundaries and limits on a daily basis. Right from the time they were trying to balance their necks to today when they come up with all kinds of interesting questions.
The children are born curious. They work hard to develop their minds and bodies. They have an innate desire to know and apply themselves.
I believe that offering rewards takes away the natural motivation of the child to do anything for her.
Inherent rewards of the activity itself
Why would a child be offered a reward? I suppose for the desired behaviour. A stand-alone desired behaviour on its own can and will have a satisfying outcome for the child. With an extrinsic reward system, the child can imply that the activity that she is being prodded to do is unpleasant and not worthwhile, and she will never realize the inherent rewards of the activity itself.
Our daughters eat all the vegetables and they have never been rewarded for this. I suppose, they actually like the taste of what they eat and this leads to the repetitive behaviour of eating all the vegetables.
I believe that the activity itself is the main ingredient to savour for the child and not an add-on to a reward.
Understanding the underlying reason
The children may not be as rational, but they are also not as unreasonable. More often than not, there will be a reason for the behaviour of the child – why she would do / why she would not do. If the parent can figure out the reason for the child’s refusal to do the given task, the underlying cause of the behaviour can be addressed directly.
I believe that my daughters have an inborn willingness to do a given task, just that they need to be respected and explained the desired behaviour.
A reward is followed by a reward, is followed by a reward, then what?
A child may be rewarded once. Even if done implicitly, she can comprehend what she has been offered. A child gets trained to expect that she will “get” something whenever she is asked to do.
It is not just about the “good” desirable behaviour, but the bad “undesirable” behaviour also. When the child gets rewarded for stopping the bad behaviour, the child actually gets trained to misbehave to get future rewards.
I believe that reward is like a genie which once out of the bottle is beyond control. Simply put, I do not play with fire.
It has not been smooth sailing for us as parents as put above. There have been moments of weakness and life is far from being perfect. I have made many mistakes and I could have been better in putting into practice our belief of parenting without rewards and punishments.
We are convinced about our belief though. With every lapse, we strengthen our resolve.
We would want to parent our daughters without rewards and punishments.
What are your views about rewards and punishments in parenting?