Competition, Rewards, and Discipline

Human beings, especially of the male gender, are competitive. Competition is a natural part of our culture. Newspapers, magazines, and other media are full of information on business and sports, both based on competition and highlighting “winners” who receive rewards in some form.

No one can doubt the importance of rewards as motivators. However, as with anything in life, context is critical. Because competition and rewards spur performance, does that mean that competition is also best within a family? Is it wise for husbands and wives or siblings to compete? Or should they collaborate for the benefit of the family team?

The topic of reward comes up often in this blog. And as past posts explain, rewards can serve as effective incentives and wonderful acknowledgments. However, when rewards are used as manipulators to change young people’s behaviors, there are some very real and unintended drawbacks.

Although rewards and punishments are often considered opposites, the two approaches share a similar focus: obedience. One can also see the similarity between the reward out front and the punishment behind by the questions they ask. To review, rewards ask, “What do they want me to do and what do I get for doing it?” Punishments ask, “What do they want me to do and what happens to me if I don’t do it?” Neither encourages reflection for personal growth.