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Oct 07

Self-Esteem and the Impact of Punishment and Rewards

Tag: Happiness,Personal Growth,Self EsteemNeill Gibson @ 12:48 am

We just received this comment from a school counselor registered for our Weekly Tips eMail Series about the message titled If Only I Had More Self Esteem.  She had read the book, Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, and wrote asking, “He too is against punishments and rewards. Would you be able to go into more detail as to how it affects our beliefs about ourselves?”

I wrote back that we are always encouraged to hear from those in the education field who are helping children learn a more sustainable cultural paradigm.

One thing we’ve learned along the way is never to be against anything. And so we are not in fact against the use of punishments and rewards.

Rather, we are for people learning how to remain intrinsically motivated by their most deeply held values in the midst of a culture that seems to help people forget this innate ability.

We believe the antidote is learning to identify and stay connected to what we most deeply value, and to help others do the same. These skills are essential if we are to avoid compromise (which we have heard and believed is the root of all violence) and instead develop strategies that will actually bring us what we value, and will accomplish this in ways that are satisfying for everyone involved.

To learn a little bit more about our take on self-esteem read our article:

Self-Esteem… How to Turn I’m Not Good Enough, into I’m Un-Stoppable
http://www.focusedattention.com/articles/Self_Esteem.htm

As far as her question about how being raised in a culture that uses punishments and rewards affects our beliefs about ourselves: we believe the biggest impact is in the area of whether we become intrinsically or extrinsically motivated–whether we know what’s important us or simply do as we are told.

Here’s a brief excerpt from our online seminar, The Art of Conscious Connection, where it talks a little bit about the impact of using a system of punishments and rewards.

Just as in dog training, when we were young, and we did something an adult enjoyed, we heard words like this: “What a good boy (or good girl) you are.” When we did what we were asked we were rewarded. When we went against what we were asked to do, we were punished.

This was repeated over and over each day. Each time we did something “good” we were rewarded and each time we did something “bad” we were punished. Soon we turned into scared little boys and girls, afraid of being punished and also afraid of not receiving the praise and rewards.

Being “domesticated” becomes a way of life. As we grow, our domestication no longer requires any outside influence. Our parents, our schools, and our churches no longer need to domesticate us. We learned our lesson and are very well trained. We are now auto-domesticating.

We continue the domestication process by punishing ourselves when we don’t follow the social rules we were taught. We say things like: “how stupid,” and “I should’ve known better than that, what an idiot I am.” We also continue to reward ourselves if we are “good boys” and “good girls.”

We are now well-equipped to continue our traditions and train our own children to become auto-domesticated animals.

Again, we believe that this training teaches us to look outside of ourselves to know whether or not we are valued or are valuable. It disconnects us from our ability to listen to that still small voice of individuality and creativity within us that makes us human, and not simply a machine obeying the dictates of authority. Any review history will find it littered with the atrocities carried out by those who are unwilling to question authority.

Personally, we believe that this is an incredibly abundant world, filled with all the resources and intelligence needed to solve any problem that we face if we simply have the skills needed to discover what is most deeply important to us and those around us, and the faith that we will discover a strategy that will deliver this to us if we search for it long enough in dialogue.

This is probably the most practical form of self-esteem we can imagine.

Remember, the shortest path to a happy life is found through conscious choice,
Neill Gibson

One Response to “Self-Esteem and the Impact of Punishment and Rewards”

  1. pasze dla koni says:

    Your blog post is impressive I think that you must translate it to other languages.