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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Rewards, Punishments, and Faith
In the discussion on Children's Books, Amy wrote -
Julie, you mentioned staying away from the reward/punishment style of raising children. What do you use instead and do you have a particular way you church applies this to its children's programs? I've noticed recently that our kids ministry uses a lot of candy/sweet rewards, especially to offerings. It's a competition of boys vs. girls. Not that a little candy is horrible thing, but I wonder if there's a more effective way of teaching our children to give just because it's the right thing to do, or out of true compassion for missions, etc.

For those of you who have never heard of the debate about rewards and punishments let me give a bit of a background. This is a discussion that is popular in alternative parenting circles, some education circles, and is making its presence known in Children's Ministry settings. While there are many people writing about the subject, the most well known author is Alfie Kohn. His book Punished by Rewards is the most prominent treatment of the subject (and the source of much emotional debate). Here's the brief summary of the book to help give a framework for this question -
Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train the family pet.

In this groundbreaking book, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals.

Drawing from hundreds of studies, Kohn demonstrates that people actually do inferior work when they are enticed with money, grades, or other incentives. Programs that use rewards to change people's behavior are similarly ineffective over the long run. Promising goodies to children for good behavior can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. In fact, the more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we're bribing them to do. Rewards turn play into work, and work into drudgery.

Step by step, Kohn marshals research and logic to prove that pay-for-performance plans cannot work; the more an organization relies on incentives, the worse things get. Parents and teachers who care about helping students to learn, meanwhile, should be doing everything possible to help them forget that grades exist. Even praise can become a verbal bribe that gets kids hooked on our approval.

Rewards and punishments are just two sides of the same coin -- and the coin doesn't buy very much. What is needed, Kohn explains, is an alternative to both ways of controlling people.

This approach forces us to rethink discipline, competition, and parenting strategies. I first encountered these ideas when I was studying methods of Children's Ministry. The discussion there revolved around two main issues. One was the tendency to use rewards/bribes to get kids to do things in church (memorize verses being the most prevalent). We saw the impact that such systems had on actually reducing love and respect for the Bible and its utter long term ineffectiveness in retention of those verses (much less basic understanding thereof to begin with). We also explored how the language of behaviorism has infiltrated of presentation of the Gospel (mostly in evangelical settings). Often people are asked to follow Jesus in order to receive the reward of heaven or avoid the punishment of hell. Long term studies that track and compare how people are called to faith (behaviorism influenced decisions or gradual inclusion into the family) have shown that the psychological issues and faith struggles are much greater in those who were given a reward/punishment option. (not that heaven and hell are not real, but that they should not be what manipulates us into choosing to follow God).

Most people don't like to discuss this issue because it forces them to consider different parenting/ministry styles than what they grew up with. The logic is that, it worked for me/I'm okay why waste energy trying to change things. But studies have shown that such a system of behaviorism does more harm than good. I like the idea of rethinking our strategy for motivating people, but I fully admit that I am still trying to discover practical strategies for implementation. I have started to evaluate what the ultimate goal of all of my interactions with my child is. Am I encouraging her to be the kind of person I want her to be (good, kind, loving), or am I using my power over her by giving or witholding my love in the form of rewards and punishments in order to get her behavior to be the way I find most comfortable?

Before I mention a few suggestions Kohn gives as alternatives, I would like to here from you all. What is your reaction to the rewards/punishment issue? What do you see as good alternatives?

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posted by Julie at 2:55 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 6/19/2007 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    I avoid the traditional rewards/punishments style, I don't do time outs, I have just about stopped saying "good job" though I still find myself falling into that on occassion. I trend towards developing intrinsic value of a job well done becasue of the effort given or the motivation rather than the final product. Allowing natural consequences whenever possible. And of course the idea of loving God and serving others out of that love and gratitude.

    I've never read Kohn but will puthim on the oist for my next library trip.

    I'm interested also in hearing others thoughts on this one.


  • At 6/19/2007 06:39:00 PM, Blogger Anne

    Janice, I'm curious why you've decided not to say "good job"? Are you talking about how you raise your children or about working with children in a ministry program?

  • At 6/19/2007 07:40:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    Anne, someone sent me this article a few years back. I did a quick google search and it appears I lied - I HAVE read Kohn - at least one article. LOL. here is the link - http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm - it just made sense to me. Everyone's mileage will vary.

  • At 6/19/2007 10:20:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Not saying "good job" has to do with the way praise can often become an extrinsic "reward" that diminishes a child's intrinsic desires. Often children will start doing things primarily for the reward of parental approval (i.e. "good job") rather than because they really want to do those things.

    This is a good insight, though I think it can be taken too far. I certainly don't think that you should never praise your kids.

  • At 6/19/2007 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I've been trying to move away from the "good job" as well. It's difficult, because I've grown so used it it. But, I've found that telling my kids that I can tell they've worked really hard or that their kindness made another person happy has been a nice change. I've had to really think about what I want them to learn and how I want them to grow...from the inside, not from my judgements.

    I wonder how to apply that to a childcare, children's ministries setting. As mentioned by Julie, our children's service has a competition between boys and girls for who can give the most to missions, the winners get candy. We've actually chosen to stop giving in this setting and are looking at another option to encourage our children to give to and live out missions. We're looking at giving to World Vision and then get involved with something locally that we can invest our time in. Rather than having a competition, we're talking about needs in our community and around the world. Our kids are really excited to help others and are learning a lot.

    I was frustrated for a while with the way they were doing this at church. But, I've come to realize anew how important our involvement is in our children's lives. My husband and I are really excited to be on this journey with our children.

  • At 6/20/2007 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Anne

    Mike, thanks for explaining that. Personally I like doing a good job. I also really like it when my boss recognizes that I've done a good job and tells me so. However, if I heard it all the time I'm sure the pride I feel would become diluted.

    On the other hand, my son's face lights up whenever I tell him I think he's done a good job, or how much I appreciate his help. I don't see me scaling back on that. I don't see him ever really getting to the point that he really *wants* to take care of the kitty litter box or mow the lawn, so I guess that's where parental approval is at least a positive motivation. :)

  • At 6/20/2007 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    How old are these kids? I don't think competition in this setting is right in any way shape or form, but especially in light of the idea that the kids may not even be giving their own money. And even if they are, what about kids who can't afford to give as much? I think that's when the story of the woman with the two coins comes in as a fine example of giving from the heart. I think getting the kids involved hands on so they see the outcome is a great idea. As for how much they give individually I really think that is a private matter. I don't have a lot of tips for the ministry setting but I'm not sure why it would be any different than the home setting. I think the key is to engage kids on a 'heart level'.

    Anne, did you get the link I provided? I praise my children often, but its not by saying 'good job'.

  • At 6/20/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Anne

    Janice, yes, thanks, I did get the link. In a nutshell the author seems to recommend moderation and common sense.

  • At 6/20/2007 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    To me a lot of it is just thinking through what I say. It reminds me to give constructive praise (and doesn't reinforce gender stereotypes by always mentioning a girl's appearance or a boys strength).

    I've also become much more aware at how much manipulation goes into being a parent. Petty bribes like "if you eat your veggies, you will get some dessert" or "if your good while mommy shops we can go get some ice cream" are so much more damage than the brief compliance they possibly bring. Besides contributing to the children's obesity issues by always giving candy and sweets as rewards (and making them believe that sweets are inherently better than other food), they turn behavior into being all about the child. The child learns that if they behave they then get what they want (or at least what we've told them they want). Its not about being a good person or being aware of others needs, its all about the child. Ingrain such a selfcentered focus over the years and no wonder we have churches of consumers who can't be bothered to get off their butts and serve.

  • At 6/20/2007 03:43:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Janice, the children are between Kindergarten and 6th grade. I have similar concerns to yours. I'd love it if they would do a community service project locally or even make cards of encouragement to send to missionaries.

    I agree with Julie. It's not that we don't give praise, but how we give it. Rather than saying my child did a great job coloring, I tell him that I can see he worked really hard. He'll usually respond by telling me that he's proud of how well he colored in the lines. For me, I like to hear what he's proud of. It's not a hard, fast rule, but rather just a bit of a different approach.

    I haven't read Kohn (with the exception of the article Janice linked to), but I'm interested to know what approaches some of you have used for discipline or to correct behavior. I do use time outs, but more as an opportunity to take a break from a situation rather than punishment. We try to tie logical consequences to actions in age appropriate ways. I have to say that with parenting, my creativity is often sapped by the energy of three young kiddos, so any idea you may have are appreciate.

  • At 6/20/2007 04:16:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    The concept of time-outs came from experiments with laboratory animals that were called "time out from positive reinforcement". Somehow the technique jumped species. Generally it is used as punishment - generally as exile from a toy, an activity, or most often from the proximity/love of a parent. Even if that is not how a parent intends it, that is often how a child perceives it - as a personal rejection by a parent. Of course there are times when a calm down/step back time is needed. At this stage I generally try to do it with my child so she doesn't associate the loss of my love with the incident. I'm sure that will get more difficult if we have more kids.

  • At 6/20/2007 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I can attest to the fact that it is more difficult with more than with two or more! ;-)

    I recently read an article on The Ooze that I've taken a lot of encouragement from.

    I don't know what the tests with lab animals involved, but I'm guessing they were not followed up with an opportunity to talk about what happened, why, and then problem-solve future behavior...followed up with a good dose of loving. As mentioned in the above article, there is repair, even when the situation is not as described in that story.

    I can understand the reluctance to use time-outs, but I've actually found them quite useful and productive when done with love and when given an concerted effort and thought-process from the parent.

  • At 6/20/2007 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Linda

    I completely agree with many of your comments about reward and punishment being problematic in trying to teach our kids in an ministry setting or at home. However, there is a basic problem, or perhaps a big caution, that comes along with tossing rewards/punishments out the window.

    Developmentally, reward and punishment is sometimes the only basis for creating the conditions for learning, especially with children who have not been trained in healthy ways of behavior and emotions And yes, emotions are to some degree trained. If we neglect helping to train our children emotionally, we either end up with basket cases or psychopaths.

    James Fowler wrote a theory of Faith Development that says (fairly accurately, I believe) that kids in the elementary school ages think in terms of justice and reciprocity. Piaget's own theory of cognitive development would also indicate that this is a function of this age.

    So I guess the point of my comment is that certainly we should be careful how we reward and punish and try to help kids find their own internal rewards and punishments, but that it won't work for every kid because developmentally they are not all capable of this. And when I think of the kids who come to my church from the poor urban neighborhood around the church, I know that they have not been given enough good training to be able to do something without the promise of reward. But NOT candy,please!

  • At 6/21/2007 12:10:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    how exactly does reinforcing and continuing harmful behaviors just because that is what people are used to help things in the long run? Is the point just to get those kids to do what we want them to do or is it to help them become whole people?

  • At 6/21/2007 05:09:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Julie, can you please help me understand your last comment. What I read from Linda was that there is an appropriate developmental stage for rewards and punishments. The ultimate goal is to move children (and adults) toward the goal of wholeness, but sometimes it takes necessary smaller steps to get there.

    I know that you feel passionately about not using the reward/punishments style. I'm wondering, though, about Linda's environment. Are there other methods available that address the needs particular to a poor, urban neighborhood? If so, providing more information on that front would be much more helful to me in understanding this approach to parenting and childcare than the statement you made about continuing harmful behaviors.

    As to my continued use of time-outs, I would disagree that I'm continuing harmful behaviors. I think the spirit in which an action is done has as much or more effect on the outcome as the action itself. I am far from a perfect mom, but I love my children. I mess up. I apologize. I have amazing moments of patience and then horrible failures. But, we walk together and love each other. We work to seek the best for each other and serve one another. I have a difficult time believing that if I don't follow a prescribed parenting style that my kids will not turn out as whole people.

  • At 6/21/2007 06:19:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Amy, I hear you sister. I am in a continuous growth process in my parenting, just as my kids are in their continuous growth process, and I believe the single most important thing in helping our kids unfold into who God has made them to be is to hold them lovingly in a positive vision of their best selves, even when they are acting out for whatever developmental or circumstantial reasons.

    Sometimes, to be in a position to be proactive about our long terms goals, we have to help our own sanity and get in a place of positive feelings toward our children. Occasionally this may include approaces that primarily address short term goals. It's one thing to pop an advil six times a day for years and another to take it occasionally for a really bad migraine so you can sleep it off.

    I believe in excercising grace, understanding humility, consistency with flexibility and feeling out both yourself and your child to know how to love her/him best and help him/her grow into a whole, loving human being.

    As I learn and as I am with God and experience growth, my parenting approach is changing a bit at a time, a I glean the best from various schools of thought and synthesize them into what's right for my kids and our family.

  • At 6/21/2007 10:04:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    On the continuum between punishment being spanking and time-outs with preschoolers, I would tend towards time-outs, being a non-spanking kind of mama. However - if used in a gentle, non-belittling way they give the child a chance to reboot and try again. Part of self-discipline is learning 'stop' and 'start' behaviors, and preschoolers especially need help with the 'stop' part -- without saying 'no' or 'stop' all of the time.

    I find that many times my kids' temper tantrums were induced by bad parenting... Zig Ziglar uses an acronym called "HALT" - four diagnostic questions: are they Hungry? are they Angry? are they Lonely? are they Tired? Chances are it is one of those issues which I can address through a better reaction than a swat or yelling.

    BTW - the whole sticker, prizes, checkoff chart, badges thang was what turned me off to Awanas and the like. Perfectly horrible children in my class got "all" of the awards and none of the intrinsic change from Bible club. Go figure.


  • At 6/21/2007 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    Just to clarify this statement:
    "However - if used in a gentle, non-belittling way they give the child a chance to reboot and try again."
    ...this refers to time-outs. NOT ever spanking.


  • At 6/21/2007 10:14:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I believe in excercising grace, understanding humility, consistency with flexibility and feeling out both yourself and your child to know how to love her/him best and help him/her grow into a whole, loving human being.

    I really like the way you put this, Jemila.

    Deb, I like the HALT acronym. Thanks for sharing that.

  • At 6/22/2007 12:30:00 AM, Blogger Cary

    I definitely use time-outs and lots of praise with our sons and will continue to do so. I read the Kohn article and, while it gave me something to think about, I generally disagree. I think he's basically "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

    I do think we need to be more specific and thoughtful about the praise we use, but I think our praise guides our very young and emotionally undeveloped little ones to make better judgments in the future. I also think we have to be careful not to punish in anger, but we do need to teach our children that their actions have consequences. (You can bet that if we don't, the policeman they run into later in life definitely will.) When I place one of our sons in time-out, I tell him beforehand what he did wrong and ask him to think about it. Then, we discuss it again after he has had some time on his own to think it through.

    Thanks to Amy for the Ooze article (very encouraging and a good reminder to own up to our mistakes to our kids). And I agree with Linda's reference to Piaget's work. I studied a lot of child psychology as an elementary education major and just don't think very young children have the tools yet to do good and avoid bad for the sake of the rightness of the action.

    I hope they can learn some of that through our modelling it for them and encouraging them toward it. However, children need to know that there are boundaries in order to feel safe and I feel that appropriate, well-focused rewards and consequences help them to distinguish those boundaries.

  • At 6/22/2007 07:10:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    On a practical note, one thing I've been using lately with my daughter is a CD called Indigo Dreams that contains stories to helps children relax, build self-esteem and let go of anger. Instead of putting Nika automatically in time-out if she is unable/unwilling to change a behavior or attitude, I will give her a choice between a time out, a meeting on the couch with me and listening to the CD to help her get centered. I also give her the power to choose when her time-outs are over -- she can return to normal activities as soon as she is centered and ready to apologize or make restitution to whomever or whatever she hurt.

  • At 6/22/2007 09:25:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Sorry I didn't mean to imply that someone can't be a whole person if a certain style isn't used. There are different theories of child development - some promote rewards/punishment and others don't. You can find equal amounts of research for either side - although it is generally interesting to see what the research actually proves.

    There are stages in life where rewards/punishment are the most effective short term solution for getting a child to comply. But if it sets up systems of behavior or doesn't promote intrinsic motivation, is it really all that helpful in the long run? I feel that often it is short term fixes not long term solutions that become the rationale for actions. Teachers want to get a kid to settle down in their class, to pass this section/test and will employ whatever means necessary to get that to happen. But what if they work for the moment, but cause greater issues down the road. Is short term struggle and failure worth long term success?

    Those are the questions I bring to this. when I first encountered these ideas about 6 years ago (before having a child), I thought they were interesting but not important. As I read more and more studies and observe more common practices, I've found myself choosing to follow and try to live them out. But that's just where I'm at.

  • At 6/22/2007 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    As for a church ministry example. Instead of systems of rewards for memorizing verses or the like, I tried to help kids internalize ideas and use self-directed application.

    For example in a weekly kids club we focused on one verse/passage for the year (fruits of the spirit, lord's prayer, beatitudes...) Each week the theme/lesson/activities revolved around a part of the passage. we repeated it as a community each week. The kids did activities where they chose a part of the passage and wrote and illustrated books on that theme. They also wrote, directed, and put on plays that expressed those themes. They took ownership of their learning and did activities they enjoyed not to get a reward or a grade.

    At one point I overheard the conversation of two of the first graders at play. something came up and one of them said, "its like in that verse..." and proceeded to quote the fruits of the spirit. He then said "that was just in my head for some reason." To me that was a better example of "hiding the word in one's heart" than him having memorized that verse in the car ride to church, repeated it to a leader for a check mark in his workbook, and then promptly forgotten it with no real understanding of what it means. Its just one way of changing how things are done and often it is more about promoting true learning than it is about rewards. Its just that rewards often go along with rote learning and intrinsic motivation with deeper learning.

  • At 6/22/2007 09:50:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    One last post from me -
    want to share some of MY thoughts on why I don't do time outs. First, I personally think there are other ways of getting kids to think about their actions. I know I don't want to be sent to the corner or to my room if I've done something wrong. Anyway, one thing I did was I decided to use a 'comfort corner'. Its not really a replacement for time outs, although some may think so. We (my son and I) chose a place that my son likes - it actually IS a corner (though it doesn't have to be). We placed a blanket there, a couple of books, a stuffed animal. He is NEVER sent there. He goes when he chooses. The first few times I asked him if he needed some space and then after that if he was having trouble with something I'd say, 'are you having some trouble getting yourself under control?" He'd think for a moment, evaluating his own internal 'pressure' and if he needed, he'd go to his corner and rest a few moments. If he decided he could pull it together and move on minus an attitude then he'd choose not to go. Eventually I didn't have to prompt him to think about it, he'd start to get frustrated and if it kept rising he'd all of a sudden say he was going to take a break - he'd go to his comfort corner. I think he stopped using it when he was 4.5 maybe.

    The key for me is that he was practicing internal controls rather than me exerting external control. He honestly assessed his state. Again, he was NEVER sent there, and it was NEVER a punishment. He had things there that comforted him and it was always his choice to go.

    I think mostly if I was having a rough time I'd want someone to let me go have cup of coffee or take a hot bath...or sit with me over tea. I don't think I'd care to be sent to my room to 'think about what I've done wrong'.

    I have found the whole philosophy has really changed how I look at raising my son but has also impacted all of my other relationships.

    Also, as far as 'good job' and rewards and punishments. Insted of "good job", I might say "Nice use of color there" or "wow, that drawing really makes me smile" or 'that looks very scary!" or "how did you think to combine those colors?" or "that is REALLY interesting, tell me about your drawing" or "you must have worked really hard on that, it shows" or whatever. Again, this is something I have found in my family and other relationships that has made a difference. I think it helps a child think about their own efforts and how they did something, what went into it, it gives them opportunity to evaluate what they have done and it encourages conversation. I think it can be translated into a group setting.

    I agree with Julie in that I think 'we' need to think outside the 'norms', yes kids need some reinforcement and praise but it doesn't necessarily have to come out as 'good job' or in material rewards. I think if we can find other ways to express genuine interest and love it will have a greater impact than the 'good job'. Kids at a very young age are looking for authenticity as much as the young adults we hear talked about so much. Rather than conditioning them with a response/rewards scenario I am exploring the idea of going deeper and reaching their heart -- show them that they are valued not if they do a 'good job' but for a million things that make THEM unique. Starting with the unique way they do things in the class, and moving on to things like kindness they exhibit, their loving heart, their generosity...and help them think about it and open up discussion. I'm not sure I can explain it well though.

    As far as parenting, I have approached it with my son as a team effort - I am not trying to make him into something or exert external power/control (in an overall sense) - we are trying to work together to help him be the best he can be, to develop internal controls and grow to be all he can be by offering help, teaching, guidance, and boundaries but allowing a lot of freedom within those parameters.

    On the punishment end of things - I go for natural consequences whenever possible but acknowledge that sometimes that is hard to 'see' for me. Sometimes the natural consequences are unacceptable to me so I modify them to a semi-natural consequence. I am not sure how that will look as he grows up - he is 6 (as of yesterday!) but I hope I can continue to not exert too much in the way of manufactured consequences and allow the natural consequences to be the rule of thumb.

    I think there has been a lot of mention about rewards and praise but not as much about punishment or discipline or correcting/modifying behavior/attitudes - Does anyone have any ideas they are comfortable sharing about punishment - being specific, maybe with examples?

    Here is an example of one that sits on the line for me. The other night my son was getting ready for bed and we were going to read a new book he had gotten the day before. As we were moving along towards bed, he was being a bit silly and I was prompting him to get his teeth brushed and he mimicked me which is something I have little tolerance for. My reaction was to tell him that I wasn't going to read the book and my thinking was not that it was a punishment but more a consequence of what happens when you don't treat people nicely - they don't want to share time with you as much. Its hurtful to be mimicked and that is a real consequence. What are your thoughts on that?

    I will mention too that I was tired and I know that my state of being directly effects what kind of action I take and how I interact with him. I think the reaction in that case was on target but am interested in hearing thoughts and examples/situations from other people. He didn't complain at all, I think he understood. We read the book the following night.


  • At 6/22/2007 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Julie, I like your example, that is sort of how we do things here - its very integrated and organic. I've never been exposed to a church environment that is any different.

    Its also very 'montessori' style in its approach. My son went to a montessori preschool for one year just prior to kindergarten and it was very self-directed, kids proceed at their own speed and all the activities focus on the theme but use different skills. It was a great approach. Yours sounds similar.

  • At 6/22/2007 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Julie, thanks for the church illustration -- very helpful. Janice, great comments.

    In terms of natural consequences, I try to make sure Nika always understands that I always love her, and that I want to spend time with her/read her a story etc, but if she takes my energy being uncooperative or does something that hurts my or someone else's feelings, it takes my energy to deal with that, and I don't have energy for fun stuff.

    But this can be dangerous, because if the chid gets into the cycle of misbehaving and having natural consequences, negativity can be reinforced, when what's needed is some playful reconnection. "Playful Parenting" By Lawrence Cohen has some great thoughts on that, although challenging to practice, esp. when tired/stressed/busy.

    Any thoughts on that, esp from people with multiple kids?

  • At 6/22/2007 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Julie, thanks for your responses. I really like the approach you used for Children's Ministries.

    Janice, in regards to the situation with your son, I would have taken the same approach (don't know if that's good or bad). That seems like a logical consequence, especially for that age group. I know that consequences are something I have to think really hard about. There are many times when I tell my children they will get a consequence, but mommy needs to think about it. Hopefully as I do this more, I will get better at it.

    On that end, I have question of my own. My oldest (6 years) pounded his bed with a plastic sword last week. Three weeks earlier, he had taken his teeth and bit into our railing on our loft and made long marks in the wood. At that point, I knew he was just seeing what would happen to the wood and didn't realize it was destructive. I told him that what he did was harmful and it is disrespectful to damage other people's "stuff." So, when the bunk bed had big dents in it and he informed me that it was his stuff so my rule didn't apply, I felt that it was an appropriate time for consequences. He ended up loosing all TV/computer priveledges for three days (he only gets 30-60 minutes of combined time/day). I felt kind of stumped on this one. My reasoning with him was that by disrespecting property, he lost priviledges for use of property.

    Jemila, I like the options you give to Nika. I think we'll start using those. I also like that you also recognize your energy level and place that as an important consideration for your children. Regarding the cycle, I don't have much in the way of advice, but I have been trying to make a point to have fun time with my kids at certain times of the day that I know I have the best patience level (bedtime is not one of my best times). It seems to make a differnce when they have had fun with mom at some point during the day. ;-)

  • At 6/22/2007 11:13:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    I have a bit of a tangent contribution. I think at the age my boys are (2 & 5), and it sounds like that's the stage that many of your children are at as well, there's a lot of helping them to deal with big emotions involved here. They're feeling things like anger, fear, disappointment and aren't sure what to do with those so that it sometimes comes across as bad behavior.

    There's a series of books that I really like which have been very useful with guiding discussions on this topic with our oldest. They're called "The Way I Feel" books, and they're written by a therapist named Cornelia Maude Spelman. She's really good at taking emotions like sadness, anger, fear, etc. and bringing them down to a young child's level using concrete examples and then giving them really constructive ideas for dealing with these feelings. I'd love for some of you to check them out and see what you think.

    p.s.Just because I don't necessarily agree with some of your thoughts on punishment/rewards does NOT mean I don't respect your ideas. I'm really big on the ability of each parent to know what's best for their individual children, and I think sometimes we second-guess ourselves a bit too much when we should be listening to that God-given intuition. Each child's different. I can definitely attest to that as my own boys have DEFINITE personalities and different needs and desires even at this very early stage. Heaven help us all! :-)

  • At 6/23/2007 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Thanks Cary, I just ordered one of the books you recommended :)

    This afternoon I gave my five year-old a choice between making a drawing, listening to CD or sitting on the couch to get centered. She chose to make a drawing. What she drew was beautiful: A radiant, yellow person -- a reflection of the image of God in her (my interpretation)

    She gave the picture to me as a gift. I asked her if she was ready to apologize to her brother, whom she had pushed off the slide. She said, "I'll be ready after I look at this picture for a minute."

    Just thought this might be encouraging to some of you, esp those exploring art & prayer. I would also be curious about any thoughts regarding art, spirituality and children in general. But that might be a post in itself :)

  • At 6/25/2007 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Amy, I'd be tempted to give him sandpaper and have him work to restore the wood (to some extent) and then restain it (or repaint it). Even though in one case it was 'his stuff', I'd be interested in helping him understand the value of the things we own and taking care of them and fixing them when we mess them up. When my son has seemed interested in how things work, like your son he has an inquisitive mind!, I have given him dedicated wood ( or whatever ) and let him whack away at it. You might also consider the swords being 'outside' toys or sometimes I have made the decision to take things away if my son can't use them properly. I don't mind creative play, we do a lot of it, but I do get concerned when my son begins damaging things. Just my .02.

  • At 6/25/2007 11:08:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Thanks, Janice. Yes, I had considered the repair project, but it's one of those beds that has the "used wood" look. Sanding and restaining would make it look worse. We are going to do that for our railing, though. Although the project is saved for the fall.

    Yes, destruction of property is an area of concern. I know he's learning...and I'm learning with him. :-)

  • At 6/28/2007 09:33:00 PM, Anonymous Jerrell Jobe

    Julie, great thoughts... 2 things...

    1. I found your bit about reward/punishment-heaven/hell and the studies done on the results thereof... people's walk with God/longevity/etc very interesting.

    You mentioned that a number of 'studies' and 'research' had been done validating.... I'd love to look into that a little further.

    Can you provide any specific links, sites, studies, books, etc...

    2. I agree fully that "over rewarding" "praising" can be counter-productive, manipulative, manufactured, etc etc...

    There seems that the majority of the conversation is around "to reward or not" (which is a worthwhile conversation).

    Where does individuality, discernment, personality come into play. To use Gary Chapman's wording one's "Love Language" (The Five Love Languages). Where he contends, some respond (give/receive) "love" best through: words of affirmation (perhaps "god job"), physical touch, service, quality time, gift giving. Do these factors also need to be taken into consideration...? And,how does that begin to shape interactions...?

  • At 6/29/2007 01:35:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Jerrell, I appreciate your contributions.

  • At 6/30/2007 02:58:00 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Chapin

    This topic is interesting and reminds me of teaching my kids about obedience. I heard early on about stages of obedience - at first kids obey out of fear of punishment, then as they get a little older out of hope of reward, but the goal is for them to be responsible and do what’s right because it is right.

    I'm curious also about the studies mentioned and agree that behaviorist thinking has greatly influenced our thinking.

  • At 7/02/2007 07:26:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Two points: I think there's a difference between being manipulative of our children and setting our own boundaries/helping children to understand that they are responsible for their choices and that choices have consequences. And I think all the difference in the world is in whether we come to our children and our discipline (be it preventative, which is ideal when possible) or subsequent to problematic behavior) in a spirit of love and connection of control and shame.

  • At 7/02/2007 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Should have been OR control and shame. A freudian slip? I hope not, but I struggle with this one so it could be! :)


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