Ineffective Discipline

Many teachers and parents reward young people for appropriate behavior. They believe this discipline approach is more effective and positive than using punishments.  

In reality, using rewards as a discipline strategy is nothing more than a behavior modification approach to mold desirable behavior directly—without rooting it in ethical behavior (right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, moral or immoral). Using rewards operates at the lowest level of moral judgment, which is that behavior is good because it is rewarded.

Whenever I speak to parents or teachers who have used this manipulative approach, they reveal that while they thought using rewards was working when the children were young, now that the children are older they see the difficulties the practice created. A sticker may motivate a three-year-old, but it won’t entice a teenager. As the children get bigger, so must the rewards to have any effect.

However, far more noteworthy is that these parents and teachers consistently explain that rewarding expected appropriate behavior inevitably led to selfish behavior. It prompted a mindset of “What’s in for it for me?”—without any consideration for others or for their long-term negative effects.

Of course, their findings are a major flaw with using rewards as a discipline strategy, as I’ve often mentioned. In fact, a major reason that I continue to blog and publish my monthly newsletter is to share with teachers and parents a more effective approach for promoting responsibility, which is the foundational characteristic of our society.