As a child growing up in the 90s, one of the most common phrases mentioned about the younger generations that I can remember was ‘children should be seen and not heard’, placing a strict emphasis on the idea of children being obedient, polite to others, rarely causing a fuss in a public location, whilst listening to and respecting their elders. Yet as time continues to move forward, and we notice a rise in television programmes where ‘super nannies’ go into households in order to save fractured families from ‘out of control’ children, we look to see if this ideal is still at the heart of parenting or whether the idea of reward and punishment has changed over time.
As a form of discipline, say twenty-five to thirty years ago, spanking a child was commonly accepted in society as punishment, with some experts suggesting it “is most effective as a deterrent to undesirable behaviour for younger preschoolers” (Pingleton, 2014), although it must be stated that the idea is not to harm a child, simply to show them the error of their ways. Yet nowadays, society is much more aware of children’s rights and the act of spanking has already been outlawed by 43 countries, including Spain, New Zealand and Poland to name but a few.
However, with countries like Singapore, India and Qatar still allowing children to be caned, whipped or flogged in the penal system, there is always a wide debate about whether this is an acceptable punishment or whether as a society, we should step away from the ideas of corporal punishment in order to adopt a more liberal form of parenting.
What if, as a population we choose to focus less on punishment, and instead reward children for their good behaviour and hard work instead of focusing on the negatives? This is indeed what modern-aged parents are choosing to do, using a system of rewards and praise in order to focus on improving children’s concentration, motivation and efforts to achieve a reward of some form, either at the end of each good deed, or often working towards a bigger goal.
Whereas punishment focuses on the wrong doings of your child, instead focus on the good behaviour with rewards and praise. “A reward is a consequence of good behaviour. It’s a way of saying ‘well done’ after your child has done something good or behaved well.” (Raising Children) Although some parents worry that this will affect their child, by creating an aura of over-confidence, children are much more likely to focus on improving their behaviour for your praise or rewards so long as a parent does not give too much praise for actions non deserving.
Whilst parenting continues to change over time, it is important not to take punishment too harshly on a child, instead working on the idea that “the results of an action need to directly correlate with the action that has caused them”(Morman, 2015). On some occasions it may be appropriate to ground a child, or take away privileges such as television or gaming time, yet it is important to remember that we all learn from the mistakes we make, and those life lessons will help develop children into the people they become, so go forward carefully, but be gentle!