Psychology Uncategorized

Reward and punishment: Two sides of the same coin, or are they not?

In decades past, punishment was perhaps the most basic method of discipline. Today, the place of punishment is taken by reward.

In previous decades, punishment was perhaps the main method of discipline, used by parents and teachers alike, on an almost permanent basis. Today, punishment, is strongly questioned and has now largely ceased to exist, at least as far as the educational aspect is concerned. This is because it is now widely known the impact that punishment and its various forms have on the psyche of children and the negative influence on their later lives.

In modern times, the place of punishment is taken by reward. It predisposes children to good behaviour and helps them to feel good about themselves. Unlike punishment, which, when it occurs, has a negative impact on their self-esteem and later life.

But is this exactly the case?

As strange as it sounds, both reward and punishment have a negative effect on a child’s psyche. Maybe not to the same degree and intensity, of course, but it still happens.

Rewarding has its negative side

At this point it would of course be good to explain the type of reward in question. So the talk is of reward in external ways, such as material goods or a constant thumbs-up for everything.

This negative reward fosters competition from a very early age as the young child begins to learn and work towards obtaining the ‘prize’, having permanent competitors to try to outdo. He learns to compare himself and feel “good” or “bad” depending on the reward or not and when he fails to win the “prize” he becomes frustrated and his confidence decreases. This at an older age automatically makes him a grader and deprives him of the motivation to learn. Thus the value of the learning process and the effort the child puts in is undervalued.

Reward, too, should be used with great care and in a specific way. While seemingly harmless, it actually hides many dangers.

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