How many of us give our children candy when they act “right”? Is it a good idea? Does it work?  What about reinforcing positive behavior with intrinsic rewards?  Praise them for good behavior. Give them that warm feeling inside when they know they have pleased you.

Reinforcement could be candy, money, or some other material reward. On the other hand it might be something like praise for a correct action. Another form of reinforcement is like if you excel on an exam, you get to spend additional time at the mall. Another type of reinforcement is called Negative Reinforcement. This is essentially when a past failure or mistake pushes you to do better. When you do achieve your goals or improve you receive a reward for your efforts. You may or may not be rewarded by a person, but you feel satisfaction in your performance and wish to continue to excel.

     Punishment, on the other hand, tells you what not to do. You might be punished for getting a low grade on your last exam or for swearing. Sometimes if the person is punished for what he/she did immediately, bad behavior ceases. Problems can also appear. Studies have shown that children who are frequently spanked may turn out to be aggressive, have low- self esteem and be at a higher risk for depression.

If you have reasoned with a child before spanking and are utilizing positive parenting, some may argue that this punishment technique is beneficial. A child should be able to identify the reason why they are being spanked. However, it is best to avoid doing so. Many parents hit harder than they intend to when spanking out of anger and then it becomes abuse. There is quite a fine line between discipline and abuse in that area.

       One drawback of punishment might be concealed behavior. For example, if a child is aware that if they do a particular thing the result is some form of punishment, they may continue to do it, not just in the vicinity where they are being punished or in front of the punisher. Therefore, the behavior appears to stop, but is really only being continued elsewhere. This leads the parent to believe that the punishment has worked when in fact it hasn’t.

  Punishment may lead the parents to think that punishment helps to alleviate problems their children are experiencing. The possible result of this sort of thinking is a higher risk for them to rely on punishment instead of reinforcement and for children to act out in aggressive ways. It can also cause the child to be afraid of the disciplinarian (punisher) and the place where the punishment occurs. For instance, if this is occurring in a place like school or daycare, then this can cause the child to be afraid to go there. This would decrease their interest in attending school and the grades would slide.

     In my opinion, it’s probably better to place more emphasis on reinforcement than on punishment. It would be better for parents or teachers to watch children to catch them doing something right and reward them for it. This encourages better behavior. If children know that doing something right has a better consequence, then they are more likely to practice good behavior.