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7 - Punish (Relationship)

Punishment is one of several learning techniques and is included in B.F. Skinner's Operant Conditioning model, which also includes the concepts of reward and positive and negative reinforcement – cut to a skinner box and rats being shocked for pushing the wrong lever.  It can be extremely effective in changing behavior over the short term. 
The question for parents, as posed by Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, is not so much whether we want our children to behave in a certain way, but what do we want their reason to be for doing so.  What kind of relationship do we want to have with our kids? Do we want to rule by fear, intimidation and coercion or do we want to engender trust and the loyalty that comes from deep attachment and a fundemental desire to be in healthy relationship with us. We want our children to be good, but do they want to be good for us?
There is no quick fix!  Every action we take has a consequence, and if we are employing quick fix strategies to coerce our children to behave a certain way, we may get them to do what we want, but we will pay for it for the rest of our lives.  Discipline is about the relationship. 

These tendencies are destructive in terms of both their impact on self-esteem and on our relationship with them.  They are obstacles to authentic communication and they undermine our efforts to orient our children to the family as they encounter an outside world that has very little interest in their healthy development and maturation.  They are one-sided projections.

Meet these tendencies with reproach but also with a little self-empathy and forgiveness. Do not justify them or rationalize them by possibly suggesting that they deserved it. But be gentle with yourself, start where you are, and keep practicing.

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