Am I Making It Worse? – How our punishments are creating our problems

How well are your current discipline techniques working? Do you find yourself using the same ‘tried and tested’ methods time and time again, expecting different results? Believe it or not, there is a reason those outdated punishments, consequences and restrictions aren’t getting you the results you think they should. Ross Greene is introducing a new approach which appears to be turning around everything we thought we knew about behavioral correction. His program, Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) is revolutionizing the way we view change.

It is estimated that during the 2011-2012 school year, the Department of Education counted 130, 000 expulsions and roughly 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students (that is one for every seven kids). Along with those statistics are the shocking estimates which suggest there are also a quarter-million instances of corporal punishment in US schools every year (Katherine Reynolds Lewis | July/August 2015 Issue). If this is occurring within our public school system, what is happening on a global scale within the homes of these very same children?

Imagine for a moment what results you see in your own home when you attempt to use negative consequences and punitive punishments. Sure, it produces an immediate response, but how resolved is the original problem? Your efforts may appear to be making life better, but in reality, the problems are simply being diverted and compounded; simmering beneath the surface, ready to erupt at any moment. Without teaching our children how to monitor their own emotions and regulate their own behavior, we rob them of the essential elements they need to develop internal motivation. Why would we assume that children don’t want to behave? Is it possible that they just don’t know how?

Our kids, similar to ourselves, require the capacity to trust themselves, operate independently, and thrive within their social environments. When these key components are missing from an individual’s life (regardless of their age) they will tend to seek to fill the void in unconscious and unhealthy ways.  Without the self-control which comes from being given such responsibility, kids learn to merely avoid punishment instead of securing their own success. Contrary to popular belief, even ‘rewards’ such as stickers and prizes can direct a child’s attention towards the pleasing of their authority figure, rather than to the mere joy of achievement (Dweck, 2014).

If we keep doing what isn’t working, we are sure to condition our children to punishment. Green’s program teaches us how to discover the reasons behind the misbehavior, teach and reinforce alternative solutions, and instill faith and confidence in their ability to get it right next time. After all, what good does it do to punish a child who has yet to develop the capacity to control themselves? This approach aids parents in the process of meeting their child’s needs instead of solely focusing on the behavior.

When we can learn to successfully nurture strong relationships with our children, we are then free to entrust them with the mantle of solving their own problems. The good news is, brains are changeable and new patterns can be developed. In spite of our own conditioning to react in a certain manner to inappropriate behavior, we too can join with our children in changing the way we interact and relate with them.  Together, we can commit to talking about frustrating issues and advocate for a brighter future.