How Discipline Affects Your Relationship
Consider the positive and negative responses that parents can give — rewards and punishments. Because children are pleasure seeking, they tend to repeat behaviors that are rewarded. Given a small symbolic reward like a stick-on star by his teacher for completing all his work today, the young child feels more inclined to complete his work tomorrow.
And because children are also pain-avoiding, they tend not to repeat behavior that is punished. Having to sit on the sidelines at recess and not get to play because she didn't complete her work, the young child feels more disinclined to neglect her work tomorrow.
Influence Over Time
Initially, rewards and punishments seem equally influential because at the outset they often are. However, over time, repeated use of both methods reveals significant differences in the influence they have on a child.
The more punitive a relationship becomes for a child, the less desire he has to cooperate with his parent. “Why should I want to do what you want if all you ever do is punish me?”
The more rewarding a relationship becomes for a child, the more desire there is to cooperate with the parent. “I like doing what you want because you make obedience feel good.”
Positive or negative discipline treatment by parents affects how children learn to treat themselves. Children who are praised often are more likely to grow up to be self-affirming, confident adults, but heavily criticized children often grow into extremely self-critical adults.
Effective discipline relies on your relationship to your child. If you want your discipline to work well, then make sure you maintain a continually affirming relationship that he or she really values. Rely on instruction far more than correction, on rewards far more than punishments, and on being positive far more than being negative. Negative responses should be the exception, not the rule.
Changes Over Time
In most cases, parents start off their parenthood relying primarily on the positive approach to discipline. However, as their son or daughter grows up through early childhood, then late childhood, and then into adolescence, a definite change in disciplinary approach often occurs.
As their child grows older, parents tend to rely more on correction, use more punishment and fewer rewards, and generally become more negative than positive. Ironically, parents do this because they think this change will increase their influence. In fact, the opposite occurs. The relationship suffers, and they end up with less influence, not more. The less positive the relationship with parents becomes for a child, the less inclined that child is to do what the parents want him or her to do.
The 2-for-1 Rule
Parents need to expect the obvious. Children will not always remember to follow rules they have been taught. Children will not always do what parents want. Through misunderstandings, mistakes, and misdeeds, good children will sometimes misbehave.
To keep this self-defeating transformation from occurring, there is a rule parents can remember — the rule of 2-for-1. For every negative response you make in your disciplinary role, make two other positive responses to the child within the next half hour. In this way, you communicate to your child that you see more positive value than negative value in him or her.
It's not that you are backing off your correction. You are not. But you are working to limit any lasting injury to the relationship that correction, punishment, and negative communication can inflict, by re-establishing a positive experience once the misbehavior has been dealt with.