Wow. I could write posts and posts about why carrot and stick, rewards and consequences – are not worth it. But if you want the encyclopedic big answer to that, I think you’ll just have to come to the BC CHEC Conference where I’ll be expounding on this topic in spades. Just watch. Firstly, a quick definition of carrot and stick. We offer our children incentives or punishments to get them to do particular things, or behave a particular way. For example, if you clear the table, you’ll get dessert. Alternately, if you DON’T clear the table, you’ll miss out on dessert.
Just a simple example of how we apply carrots and sticks.
At any rate, carrot and stick discipline isn’t worth it, and there are lots of reasons why. But I can’t address them all here. What do you think I am, the queen of brevity?? No.
But I want to focus on what I believe to be the primary reason, the most important reason, the fundamental reason why we just want to stay away from carrots and sticks.
Good relationships with our kids is prerequisite to the success of our ability to work with them, solicit their cooperation and to prepare them for their adult lives and healthy relationships.
Relationships are relational.
When we employ external pressure to motivate our kids to behave, control emotions or cooperate with our wishes, we undermine the relationship.
We reduce the relational aspect of relationships to a contract. Relationships are relational, not contractual.
Maybe you think I’m overstating the fact. But the day comes, for every child who is primarily managed by rewards or consequences where they say to their parents, or their siblings, “If you do this thing for me, I’ll do this thing for you.” At that point, we know their formation in contractual relationships is well established. “I get the way this works, I do something (positive) because I get something (reward).” Or, alternately, “If I do something (negative), then I get something (consequence).
It’s a contract.
Relationships are a gift of the self. I give myself to you, and in that environment of mutual love and respect, the child (or spouse, or friend, or adult child…) we work through our expectations, compromises, requests, emotions and we learn to work together.
We learn to dance.
We work together for a common beauty and joy.
It’s delicate, and valuable and honours the dignity of all.