The ultimate purpose of schooling is to make sure that children grow up to be good, empathetic, and productive adults. But these qualities only count when they are genuine.
Traditionally, punishments and rewards have always been used to help children differentiate between good and bad deeds. If you do your homework in time, you get rewarded. If you swear, you get punished.
But in a practical sense, it’s hard to tell how much of the children’s behavior is authentic and how much is just the fear or desire of certain outcomes.
Both punishments and rewards stunt the growth of children. They start measuring everything in intensity of the punishment or the value of the reward it’s going to produce. This gives rise to selfish adults who behave solely according to what they get in return.
Let’s find out how punishments and rewards affect children.
Habituated to getting punished for bad and rewarded for good behavior, young children may start losing their sense of self-discipline. Because of the fear or desire that punishments and rewards generate, these children might start doing the right things for the wrong reasons.
They will surely choose to do it as long as they are getting rewarded for it. But as soon as rewards are gone, they might just choose to do whatever they want since there is no reward to work for.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations
For everything we do, motivation is of two kinds. Intrinsic and extrinsic. When we truly want to do something simply because we want to and not because there are any quantifiable gains from it, our motivation tends to be intrinsic.
At the same time when we are more focused on the things we gain or lose through an act, we tend to function with our extrinsic motivation. It is important to remember that while extrinsic motivation works faster, it only triggers short-term compliance in children. While on the other hand, intrinsic motivation can take them a long way.
When recognition becomes manipulative
When overused, rewards can become tools of manipulation. As the desire for appreciation and validation increases inside children, they tend to be easily manipulated into doing anything. This can lead to a whole generation of people pleasers and validation seekers.
One of the biggest inherent flaws that the punishment and reward systems have is how does one decide which child needs the most recognition and support? Sometimes, the children might be deemed as the most unworthy so attention might be the ones that need it the most. But since their actions might seem to fall behind, they might get punished for things they don’t even understand!
Now, how scary is that for a child with a limited sense of good and bad?
Schools much realize the amount of harm that punishing and rewarding children can do. Rather, careful mentoring, open discussions about actions, and recognition for brilliant work should replace the punishments and rewards. This can help children understand their surroundings better, analyze their own mistakes, and take responsibility for their own actions.
At Great Principals, we hope to bring about a necessary change in the ways of Indian Education. Each new generation is far more capable than the last, and we owe it to evolution. But as humans evolve, we are required to transcend from our old ways and look at things from a different perspective, one that shapes the untapped minds of the children for the ever-growing world.
We are here to capture the journeys of marvelous School Leaders and Principals through an interactive talk show. We hope to inspire the parents who are the true changemakers in a child’s growing life. Our goal is to bring about a much-needed change in the way we educate our kids. Feel free to check out our episodes on YouTube www.youtube.com/c/GreatPrincipals