When it comes to managing complex moments with our children, sometimes we can get desperate and look for external agents to support our work, coming into play rewards and punishments for children. What respectful alternatives does the Positive Discipline not to reward and punish our children and which ones can we incorporate as parents?
We will start with punishments, a technique that is well known that is not beneficial for the child or for the family dynamics. Punishments have no place in Positive Discipline nor in currents related to a conscious and respectful upbringing towards the child. If we take respect as the basis around which to relate to our children, by punishing them we are disrespecting them and we are disrespecting ourselves.
The punishment generates vertical relationships, in which a powerful adult decides to 'take revenge' on a child and make him feel bad so that, next time, he will do things right. Incongruent, right? The psychologist and educator Jane Nelsen said 'who has made us believe that in order for a child to feel good, we must first make him feel bad?'
This often leads to misunderstandings about Positive Discipline and about respect for the child, since it is normal that someone can elaborate myths in which they affirm that in this type of discipline and / or upbringing 'the child has no limits, he does what he wants without consequences'. Nothing is further from the truth, as we will explain below.
First of all we must understand the evolutionary moment of the child, their real abilities and authentic needs, before judging that behavior as 'bad'. For example, children between 1 and 2 years old have the need to fill and empty, to build and destroy, so it would be wrong for us to punish them for opening a drawer and taking out everything inside.
In addition, there are two factors that should always be present in early childhood: a vigilant adult and a prepared environment.
- The vigilant adult will be able to help the child to relate to their space if at any time their safety or the dignity of the objects is compromised
- A prepared environment is FUNDAMENTAL for the child to develop spontaneously and safely, being able to manipulate everything within his reach without the constant restrictions of an adult.
Taking into account these factors, any action carried out by the child can be understood within its evolutionary moment and your need to discover the world, banishing terms like 'bad behavior' from our vocabulary.
To the extent that we are able to understand the motor that moves the child, we will be able to align ourselves more with him and understand that he is a being who has come into the world with an enormous desire to discover, without any intention of 'annoying us' or 'spoiling our material goods' . Being able to align with him will be the way to establish horizontal relationships, in which punishment, shouting and humiliation will have no place; instead we have to show compassion towards them, not in the sense of pity, but compassion towards their innocence, their innate virtue, their curiosity and their desire to know the world around them.
Punishments such as 'going to the thinking corner', snatching valuables for them or withdrawing their love, just teach the child that the path of relationships is about domination; that the adult who loves him has the right to dominate him and deprive him of love according to whether or not he accepts his behavior. Do we really want this to be learning for our children?
Nothing, ever, ever, nothing that a child does deserves to have our love withdrawn. Children come into the world with the authentic need for unconditional love and the more they attract our attention with behaviors that they know to alter us, the more love they are claiming from us. 'Love me when I least deserve it, because it will be when I need it most.'
So, when does the adult have to intervene to set a limit? When the dignity or safety of the child, another or the situation is in danger. For example, if our son assaults another child, if he assaults himself or violates the dignity of objects. In that case, we will always intervene with kindness and firmness, informing of the limits or norms and giving an adequate example of socio-emotional skills (without getting too upset, yelling or humiliating).
This will transfer the message of unconditional love to the child and, in turn, will help him to build internal and external limits that will promote your self-confidence and security with which it unfolds in your life. If I know what I can do, when and how, I am confident and I function naturally. If I am in doubt about whether something can be done or not, I will be insecure, dependent on the adult and his reaction, and will probably be frustrated when he intervenes.
As you can see, it is not necessary to punish, simply provide a suitable environment, remain attentive to the child's behavior and intervene with kindness and firmness IF NECESSARY.
But what about the awards, what is wrong with them? Although sometimes we may think that rewarding a child will reinforce and strengthen their 'positive' behaviors, the challenge is to come to understand that child behaviors are neither negative nor positive and that children need to make themselves judgments about their actions and what they cause in others and in themselves, without there being an external reward (usually material) that VALIDES their achievement.
Children need to be able to make their own judgments and find internal motivation. If motivation and validation is always external, they won't be able to make decisions based on your own wants and needs. The prize generates dependency and can cause confusion if it is not obtained, perhaps the child assumes that he no longer deserves it or that he will have to intensify more and more his efforts in search of a validation that he should give himself and not expect from the outside.
If a child has always been rewarded, he has learned that the other validates his behavior and effort, your responsibility and ability to self-regulate will be reduced, since it has always depended on an external component that has guided its behavior.
In Positive Discipline we talk about encouragement. The psychiatrist and educator Rudolph Dreikurs said that a child needs breath like a plant needs water, motivation is a process by which the message is transmitted to children that they are loved and accepted as they are. Through encouragement, we will convey to our children that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth, and not something to be ashamed of. Children who are encouraged have good self-esteem and their feeling of belonging develops.
They are small differences in the way we address them, which will encourage encouragement and thus help the child to trust his inner wisdom and accept his own processes.
Instead of saying 'I'm proud of you', we can say 'You must feel very proud of what you did', emphasizing her internal process, her self-concept and her abilities; and not focusing on the visible result.
'I love you no matter what'.
'You deserve that great grade.'
'I saw that you tried very hard.'
Think for just a second:what would you like to hear when you feel discouraged, discouraged or down? Try to use these phrases with your son, give him BREATH now that he will accompany him for life.
You can read more articles similar to Respectful Alternatives to Not Using Punishments and Rewards with Children, in the Limits category - On-site discipline.