Candy or cane: which is the better motivator?
Our elders believed in the adage ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’. They insisted that punishment was essential to inculcate a sense of fear and respect in children towards elders. But with the passage of years, the effect of the cane on children has been undesirable. A recent study conducted by the Washington University in St.Louis revealed
I personally do not believe in punishing my children as it will never help them understand the mistake they made. Fear will only cripple them
Our elders believed in the adage ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’. They insisted that punishment was essential to inculcate a sense of fear and respect in children towards elders. But with the passage of years, the effect of the cane on children has been undesirable. A recent study conducted by the Washington University in St.Louis revealed that punishment, far from yielding desirable results, has adverse effect on children.
“Punishment is a greater motivator than rewards, but it has to be mild and easy going. It should not trigger negative emotions in the kid”, says Dr Sreenivas, psychiatrist. “The fear of punishment usually provokes a feeling of anxiety in children, which helps them stay active and attentive. While a reward is also a good motivator it is not as effective as punishment as the child does not risk losing anything and has no lesson to learn”, he adds.
Fear, as we know, releases a rush of adrenaline, which helps children stay alert and combat obstacles and find best solutions in trying circumstances. This is primarily the reason teachers depend on the fear factor. “Students mostly respond well to punishment than rewards. They often feel embarrassed at being punished. This is true, especially in the case of academics”, says Sulochana, a primary school teacher.
A few however believe in positive motivation and assert that a reward helps children work towards a goal as there they strive to work their way towards a desirable end. “I believe that reward is a better motivator than punishment as the latter brings about fear while the former inspires interest. I personally do not believe in punishing my children as it will never help them understand the mistake they made. Fear will only cripple them”, says Kanaih Lal, father of two children.
Just like Lal, most parents and child activists believe that punishment in regular doses bring about a phobia in kids, which in the long run only works to a child’s detriment. Fear, by itself, does not help the child distinguish between the right and wrong, but only forces them identify desirable behavior from the undesirable. This keeps them from developing a mind of their own.
“It’s hard to tell which is good, as both punishments and rewards are strong motivators and have their own positive and negative effects. Since childhood, we have been taught that a wrong act will get you punished while a commendable act will fetch you a reward. But there is also no denying that the fear of getting punished by teachers or parents keeps children away from malicious things”, says Arushi Sabhalaka, a degree first year student.
“Elders should know when to punish and when to reward children. Either one in excess will prove dangerous for their mental health. While the former would scare them, the latter might make them complacent. Both punishment and rewards should be given in moderate doses. The main aim here should be to motivate the child, not scare them into complaince” says Mamata Varma, a child psycologist.