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Entries in control (4)

Tuesday
Nov192013

The myth of punishment: It is not the same as "natural consequences."

Many parents and teachers wrongly assume that the use of punishment is the same thing as experiencing "consequences,"  particularly "natural consequences."  Adults justify the use of punishment [whether gentle or aggressive] by reminding the child that they are ostencibly "making choices" and that bad choices have repercussions or "consequences."  But adults cunningly call those repercussions "natural consequences," as if they are universal and happen to everyone everywhere.  So according to that justification, whatever happens to the child is the result of a choice they've made, not a situation the adult has set up.

While bad choices do have repercussions, I assure you that to a child, punishment is experienced very differently than natural  consequences.  Here's how punishment is distinctly different from natural consequences.

 

PUNISHMENT:

Punishment uses coercion, threat and pressure: 

"If you don't do what I'm asking, you will go to your room for a time-out." 

"If you don't do well on your report card, you won't be able to go to the dance." 

The "consequence" that an adult sets up for the child is designed to compel the child into one right response - the one the adult would choose.  The child must comply, or experience some kind of pain or loss.  [To be determined by the adult, of course.] Though the adult may in fact be right about what is needed in that situation, the use of punishment generates fear and anxiety rather than a healthy motivation to do the right thing. 

Moreover, the punishment is being set up and arranged for by the adult, rather than something that occurs as a natural outflow of an action, whether or not the adult arranged for it.  For example, if I go skating on a pond before it has frozen completely over, I may fall in and experience hypothermia; yet no one has arranged for that consequence for me.  It's simply a natural and understandable cause-and-effect. No one created the effect [falling in] in order to get me to be less foolish.

Ironically, the same parents who would agree that "perfect love casts out fear" would advocate the use of punishment [and its use of intimidation] to enforce proper behavior.

Punishment removes the possibility of a meaningful choice for the child. 
It is a fallacy to believe that the child is making a true, internally-motivated choice when the only two choices we have given her are either, "Do what I say" or "Experience fear and rejection." 

Punishment will also guarantee that the child's choice to comply with your wishes will not be motivated by love for you.  Nor will they obey because they genuinely respect you.  Rather, their motivation will be to avoid pain.  Using punishment actually disengages a child's genuine desire to do the right thing because fear will override any possibility that the choice will be made out of loving respect for you.


Punishment teaches the misuse of power.

Finally, punishment teaches the child that the way you get someone to do something is by using power against them.  It says to the child, "Authority is something to be feared rather than loved and honored."



NATURAL CONSEQUENCES:

Natural consequences, on the other hand, are not the fruit of threat and coercion, because no one is manipulating the child towards any particular outcome.  No one is using their authority or power to insure that their demands are met. 

In the case of a true natural consequence, the child retains a meaningful choice in the matter. No one is arranging for or demanding any particular outcome.  For example, if a teen chooses to drive recklessly down a neighborhood street, he could hit a toddler who steps out from behind a parked car.  The toddler may be tragically injured or killed as a natural consequence of the teen's actions; yet that natural consequence isn't being set up by an adult in order to constrain good choices behind the wheel.

Bottom line:  Justifying the use of punishment by calling it a "natural consequence" does not make it so.  The fruit of punishment is fear, not love. 

 


 

Helpful resources:

Wednesday
Feb012012

Video: "Relating Without Control"

Most of our relationships end up being "If ___, then" relationships, based upon control and compliance. We offer love and delight only when our expectations are being met. It's hurting our families and our kids.

        

Tuesday
Nov082011

How "If____________, then______________" has sabotaged your relationships

Most Christians, most people in fact, live with what one educator calls, ""Compliance Acquiescent Disorder  (CAD)."  An individual with this disorder, "defers to authority,"  "actively obeys rules,"  "fails to argue back,"  "knuckles under instead of mobilizing others in support,"  "stays restrained when outrage is warranted,"  and so on.  Compliance Acquiescent Disorder goes far beyond a proper sense of authority and mutual respect.

I just spoke with a mother today, who told me that her daughter [a responsible kid] was put into time out by her teacher for sharpening her pencil while the teacher was on the phone.  The mother was incensed.

Norm Diamond, who coined the term, Compliance Acquiescent Disorder, was speaking of an educational environment that prizes compliance over almost everything; but C.A.D is an accurate term for what has happened to most of us.  (1)

Most of our relationships: 

  • parent - child,
  • boss - employee,
  • teacher - student,
  • spouse - spouse

operate around an "If __________________, then ___________________" dynamic:

If you behave well, I"ll reward you.  If you misbehave, there will be "consequences."

If you put in over-time at work, you'll receive a bonus.

If you don't complete your homework, you will be penalized."

If you don't meet the expectations I have for marriage, then I'll withdraw as well.

 

At the expense of our hearts
Because we've gone to schools, worked in jobs, and learned parenting habits where compliance ["Just do what we tell you, whether it's reasonable or not"], always operate around "If ___________, then________," we've gotten used to pleasing others even at the expense of our own hearts.

We've caved,  knuckled under, and refused to challenge the reigning assumption that controlling others and being controlled by others is normal.  It is not.

Our jobs have taught us that workers produce more when there are "carrot and stick" incentives for performance, forgetting that most people want to do good and meaningul work, and don't need to be prodded or "managed" in order to do so. (2)

Our schools have taught our children to comply with every expectation of the teacher -- whether reasonable or not, whether actually good for them or not -- even when it is an assault against our child's will and dignity.

Our inherited parenting habits have taught us to shut down anything messy, anything disruptive, loud or unexpected; oftentimes simply because it's inconvenient for us, or we're just plain stressed. 

"If ___________, then _________________" is everywhere, and it's killing our hearts.  Worst of all, law-based distortions of Christianity have taught us that God only blesses people who comply with his will; and that pleasing him is a matter of getting things right.

 

(1) From Feel Bad Education, by Alfie Kohn

(2)From "Drive-The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," by Daniel Pink

 

Friday
Nov042011

It's about connecting, not control.

What if, rather than ask,

"How can I get this person to do what I want them to do," we asked,

"How can I connect with this person?"

Getting people [including our spouse or kids] to comply with our rigid expectations will inevitably lead to controlling them. 

Control always leads to shame. 
Why?

Because the one doing the controlling [expecting compliance] assumes it's their right to do so.  It sets the two parties on unequal footing.  The receiving person's dignity is seen as dispensable.

Are expectations a good thing?  Yes.  To live without them is to live without values and to assume our own dignity is indispensable. 

But demanding compliance at the cost of another person's heart isn't acceptable.  God himself is gracious with latitude:  He allows, even welcomes, self-will - the capacity to make uncoerced choices without the threat of disappointing him.

It's helpful to ask:  "Does the person's heart matter more to me than their behavior?"

 

The controlling dynamic centers around "IF...THEN..."

"If you do this, I'll be happy with you.  If you don't meet my expectations, I'll be disappointed with you."

"If you comply with my expectations, I will reward you.  If not, you'll suffer the consequences."

THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL.  Instead, God says, "I will bless you on your worst day."

 

A better way

Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great" and other leadership books, offers an alternative:

1.  "Lead with questions, not answers."

2.  "Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion."

3.  "Conduct autopsies, without blame."

 

I would add a couple others:

  • "Give feedback about failed expectations as information, not condemnation."  [remove the emotional sting]

  • "Put the heart of the other person first.  Worry about behavior later."

 

It's about connecting, not compliance.