Parenting without Rewarding

If you find that disciplining your children and fostering a sense of responsibility in them is stressful or unsuccessful, the use of traditional parenting approaches may be the problem. Why? Because traditional parenting approaches—including lectures, rewards, and punishments—rely on external motivators to change the child’s behavior and for obtain obedience and compliance.

Telling young people what to do, rewarding them if they do as expected, and threatening or punishing them if they don’t are counterproductive, increase stress, and diminish strong parent/child relationships.

Whether the approach is telling-based, rewards-based, or punishment-based, the bottom line is that it’s manipulation, which is never permanent. All of these approaches are something you do to another person and have little long-lasting effect. This is in contrast to collaboration—working with a person.

Whenever you impose something on someone, it only produces short-term results because the person doesn’t have any ownership in it. Think about it: If these external motivational approaches were effective, irresponsible behaviors would be a mere footnote to parenting, rather than a leading cause of stress.

The irony of manipulating behavior is that the more you use it in an attempt to control children, the less real influence you exert over them. Clearly, manipulation breeds resentment. In addition, if children behave because they are forced to behave, the parent has not really succeeded. True responsibility means children behave appropriately because they want to—not because they have to.

Here is the paradox: We want to assist young people to be self-disciplined and responsible, and both traits require internal motivation. Yet, lectures, rewards, and punishments are external motivators and place the responsibility on someone else to instigate a change.

The challenge then for parents is raising a child who will do the right thing even when there is no threat of punishment, no lure of a reward, and no lecture before and after the act. So how do you do that? See the answer at and link to PARENTS in the menu bar.childdren