Why are rewards, bribes, and punishment bad for children?


I understand how "if/then" is not good to use when disciplining bad behavior. But what about using if/then to promote/encourage positive behavior? For example- if you do all your homework, then you can go outside and play or if you eat all your dinner, then you can eat a cookie? I use it mostly as part of getting through the daily routine so they understand what comes next.


To discipline is to teach. Rewards, Bribes, Punishment lead to manipulation and hurt. Encouraging good behavior is done by explaining to our kiddos WHY they are to follow the rule. Then they know how to get it right, and that is motivation enough because children under 10 are continually motivated by finishing circles of love with us, their parents/caregivers. It is our love and connection that motivates them. Most of us as parents break that motivation by teaching them that seeking pleasure in the way of candy, video games, grades is what will make them happy and bring them joy. We continually teach them by rewarding them with stuff rather than our love and approval. But children are BORN with the motivation to connect and love a caregiver. Relationship, loving relationship is the most powerful motivator of all. That is why when we are punitive with our children they tend to stop feeling motivated.

Punishment creates fear, defense, and lack of safety. When was the last time any of you learned anything when being punished or screamed at? Language is powerful When we say "If you do your homework then you can play"- the language has a punitive tone. When we feel punished most of us respond in different ways- 1. Defend ourselves and fight about the rule. 2. Shut down and believe that the other person does not understand our experience. 3 Fearfully, complete the task but never truly understand why doing said task helps us. We only do it not to lose the relationship with our parent/boss/lover/friend. The last one is what most easy temperament children feel. Number 2 is primarily done by those children who have a slow to warm temperament. Number 1 is done by my personal favorite, the LEADER temperament. So in the example above, true motivating language is "When you get your homework done, you can go out to play, because in our family we are responsible and do the hardest to-do's first and then we can reward ourselves with fun things." 

However, THIS IS NOT A MAGIC MESSAGE. Most children will whine and tell you how "it's too hard," but that is them telling you immaturely that delaying their gratification is difficult.