Saturday, November 15, 2008

Expectations & Punishment

Here is a terrific article on parenting that applies equally well to teaching, and also to how to deal with our expectations of ourselves. 

I particularly appreciate the U shaped curve for expectations - that too much chaos and too much rigor have similar negative results; and also the process of shaping - allowing time for development by lowering the expectation and building it slowly over time. And I deeply appreciate the idea that when our expectations are not met, we feel it as a stress on ourselves, which causes a loop in which under-performance on the part of the child fuels negative behaviors on our part, which causes resentment and further under-performance. I have never been a real believer in punishments, because they merely serve to correct the behavior while you are present, and diminish the bond you have that could ultimately foster the shaping of behavior in a healthy and productive way. 

I have said this before and been perceived as weak or naive, but there is an emormous difference between punishing and correcting. My experience in every leadership position I have had has been that a punishment is ultimately a sign of our inability to deal with our own failures, and if we want a real success, we must always think creatively and clearly about how to build confidence and character through the inner resources that already exist within the child and within every child. Every person wants to do right at his or her core, and simply needs to be reminded of this and empowered and inspired to do this. Punishment has the paradoxical effect of exacerbating the problem rather than correcting it. 

It is nice to see the research supporting what is counter-intuitive to some. But all we have to do is ask when in our own lives a punishment (as distinct from a correction) ever produced a significant change for the better; and if we think of one, we have to ask ourselves if it was not accompanied or followed by an empowerment that would have worked just as well on its own.

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