Conflict is a course of life, occurring whenever two parties have different agendas or different perceived agendas. What matters is not the conflict itself but how that conflict is resolved. Parents don’t have to resort to win-lose methods with either the parent or child winning while the other loses. When parents work together with their children, everyone’s needs are met and noone loses. By meeting everyone’s true needs, the conflict ceases to exist rather than escalating in continued attempts to meet the unmet needs.
I’ve often heard parents rationalizing punishments and rewards by citing the real world. When the kids grow up, they’ll be in the real world. In the real world, they’ll have to get a job and then, they had better be prepared. Punishments and rewards are everywhere, in the real world.
Behavioral training uses punishments and rewards in order to extract desired behaviors from the subject in question. Numerous studies support that the use of punishment in children, regardless of whether or not the punishment is physical in nature, has detrimental effects. Besides dissolving the connection between parent and child, punishments do not help the child to do better or improve the behavior. Many parents deem this to mean that they should rely on rewards instead. What they fail to realize, and what research also supports, is that rewards are merely the other side of a two-edged sword.
It may seem benign to offer a reward in order to get a child to do what we want. It seems simple enough. However, by offering a reward for a specific behavior, you are simultaneously offering a punishment in the form of the withheld reward in the event that the desired behavior is not produced. Regardless of form, they both heavily involve extrinsic motivation – fear of punishment or the hope of a reward – in order to coerce others into behaving in a certain way. Behavioral training does have its place. Used short term, it has helped many people change habits. Used as an extrinsic tool to aid an intrinsic desire, behavioral conditioning has its benefits. However, B.F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorism, along with other noted researchers in the area such as Ivan Pavlov, were adamentaly against the use of behavioral therapy as a parenting technique. Long term, behavioral conditioning erodes a subject’s reliance on intrinsic motivation. Eventually, when the reward or punishment is no longer offered, or no longer is considered substantial by the subject, there is no longer motivation to continue the desired behavior. Reputable behaviorists do not recommend punishments or rewards as the basis for a parenting system.Lack of intrinsic motivation has aided in many monstrosities over time. When people rely on fear or rewards to motivate them, they are less likely to stand up for what they believe in or to have a strong sense of values. They are more easily manipulated and swayed by others. Some parents may view this as a positive side effect, but that opinion generally changes when the parent is no longer the figure the child turns to for extrinsic motivation. Children who are raised without extrinsic motivation are more likely to have deeply held personal beliefs and to act upon those beliefs, regardless of what other people may think.
It was one of those idealistic parenting moments. I was in the kitchen washing dishes, and all four of my children were happily playing together in the living room.
The game of the moment was a pirate one, and there were plenty of giggles amidst the “Arghs.” In one of my glances, I saw my eight year old wielding a foam sword in perfect form. Another time, my three year old was proclaiming to be the Dread Pirate Roberts (I’ve mentioned we are a family of bibliophiles). The throw pillows morphed into a gang plank and the fish in our aquariums were hungry sharks.
As the climax of the game approached, I heard something that made me pause. “Send in the baby! He won’t harm her.” I had to laugh at my son’s use of diplomacy.
There is a difference between wanting to know the limits of another person’s acceptance and of having another person set a limit on one’s self. The difference is where the power lies. If we enforce our own limits, we exhibit self-control and encourage and enable our children to do the same. When we attempt to limit another person, we are attempting to control them; that in itself is both impossible and unhealthy.
A coworker was relegating to my husband at work about an incident he had experienced with his teenage daughter the night before. He had been yelling at her for something when she said something he felt was in a disrepectful tone – backtalk, at which point he slapped her across the face hard. I can only imagine what my husband’s face looked like at that revelation. His coworker went on to explain that he hated to do it but that it had to be done. My husband made a sarcastic comment about training daughters for how they should be treated by men and then said he wanted better for his daughter.
Children come into this world unknowing of the world or its inhabitants. They haven’t yet learned of social graces or how to interact with others. They learn these things by watching us. How we treat others, especially the ones we love, has a lasting effect. It shapes not only how our children treat others but also how they allow others to treat them.
A strong, confident, loved woman doesn’t suddenly allow a man to hit her and accept that that is the way of life. Abused women, and those who abuse them, have learned somewhere along the way that it is acceptable or that they are an undeserving exception. Most fathers would protect their daughters from some other man hitting them, and yet many of these same men are teaching their daughters that being hit, being belittled and degraded, by a man is acceptable.
Everyone tends to get frustrated at times. Our family is no exception. Whenever that happens, we remind each other, regardless of age, to take a deep breath.
Taking a deep breath helps to calm us. The physical act of deeply filling one’s lungs and exhaling reduces stress. When stressed, we breathe in short, shallow breaths; deep breaths help to relax us. Breathing deeply also releases endorphins which help us to better deal with stress. It helps us to clear and focus our minds.
The time it takes to take a deep breath also breaks the current cycle of reactive thought. We can once again focus on finding a solution rather than expending all of our thought and energy on our frustration.