Consequences versus Rewards


As children grow the “give consequences” strategy stops working. Is that a news for us?

Am sure, as a parent we have our awakening moments, when our 2 years old child turns into 6 years and what worked before, stops working….Phew! We devise something new. And then they turn 9 years old…What worked before again stops working…..We smarten up and make a few tweaks at our end. And lo behold! They are into their teens! And all that we learnt (seemed to work before!) stops working. It is like being a fresher in parenting all over again!

From a developmental point of view, ain’t it good that our older strategies indeed stops working. Human beings have the real intelligence (that AI and Machine learning is bidding to catch up on with). Their resilience is increasing and their desire to find a meaning out of day to day activities increases. Their streak to build an identity separate from the parents starts getting more powerful. Finally they step into the maturity of doing things for a meaning beyond fear or anxiety alone.

So, the challenges with overuse of consequences is that
1 It stops working after a point of time
2. It creates a gulf between parent-child relationship
3. The time and emotions lost in belting out time outs or you wouldn’t get this owing to that action, could better be used in building connections instead.
4. It brings in oppositional behaviour in our children. They can’t help it, it is a survival instinct of protecting themselves from the fear and anxiety that consequences bring in.

The question for us today is how do we bring the shift of gear from “Give consequences for work not done” to “Give rewards for work done”. The sooner we get into it, the better we stay connected to our children. We all love rewards. It triggers the feel good hormones and better increases chances of behavioural modifications. Even a “You are looking good today” is enough to keep that extra lift in our heart and the tinkle in our eyes for hours.

That brings us to how to do it in an effective manner-

  1. Notice small increments that the child does on the activities we want him or her to do
  2. Effusively (and I mean effusively, immaterial of what is your core personality) praise the increments
  3. Whenever possible give some instant reward.

Rewards could be a hug, pat, in the air scoop, a little dance jig or commitment of some story time together or extra screen time or point system or extra play time…the more non-material, the better it is.

Parenting is an unavoidable journey together with our child. The question for us is- Are we designing our steps to grow closer or apart?