In the news this week – the Anglican Communion has suspended the Episcopal Church (USA) from voting on matters of consequence for the global communion for the next three years for its change in stance in allowing priests to perform same-sex marriages.
In the language of the church’s decision, they write that this is a consequence of the Episcopal Church’s actions. It made me think of the difference between consequence and punishment. I work with kids and have kids of my own, so this comes up a lot. How to change someone else’s behavior?
So I ask you to think of times you have tried to discipline someone or change their behaviors – did you use a consequence, or a punishment? What worked? See excerpt from a parenting article below for some background.
Consequences Are Different from Punishments (from http://www.empowering parents.com)
Punishment says to your child: you’d better think like me, or else. If you don’t, I will make you pay (or suffer) until you make the choice I want you to make. A punishment doesn’t respect the child’s right to make a decision, even if that decision is a poor one. It arises out of anger and fear and often looks like a withdrawal of love in order to get the child to do what you want them to do. This approach doesn’t help kids develop new ways of taking responsibility for their behavior. It can also be destructive to the relationship.
Consequences, on the other hand, communicate to your child that their behavior is their choice and their responsibility. And that your responsibility is to help them learn how to face the results of their choices, no matter how difficult or unpleasant. A consequence respects the child’s right to make a decision, even if it’s not a good one. It’s not a withdrawal of love or a rejection. It’s a matter-of-fact learning experience in which you maintain a better relationship with the child as you hold them accountable.
Let’s look at a common situation to illustrate how providing consequences is different from delivering punishment. Your 13-year-old doesn’t call to check-in and let you know where he is. In the past, his punishment was to lose his cell phone for a couple of days. Yes, that might have taught him that when you don’t act responsibly you can lose privileges. But what it didn’t teach him is how to act more responsibly. So how can using consequences make a difference here?
Take the same scenario, but before you decide how to respond first ask yourself: What is it that I want him to learn and improve? You probably want him to learn to follow your instructions and do what he is told, which in this case was to call. You also want him to improve by consistently remembering to do it. To motivate and guide your son to better behaviors, the consequence could be that he will only be allowed to go out with friends on the coming weekend and only for an hour. During that time he must remember to call you and let you know where he is. If he does this successfully both Saturday and Sunday, he can return to going out for longer periods of time. What he’s learning is that privilege (going out with friends) comes with responsibility (calling to check-in). What he’s getting is the chance to practice and demonstrate to you both is that he can be trusted to do as he’s supposed to.
Now – does either punishment or consequence have a Christian ring to it? Do we win people to Jesus through punishment? rewards? consequences?
Come ready to share your thoughts and experiences as we into this whole sticky world of imposing our wills on others!
See you in the library tomorrow at 9:15 am. John
Table 10.1 Consequences vs. Punishments; A Comparison (from the article linked below)
|Intend to teach lessons||Intend to give discomfort|
|Foster internal locus of control||Foster external locus of control|
|Are proactive||Are reactive|
|Are logical and related||Are unrelated and personal|
|Work in the long-term||Work in the short-term|
|Promote responsibility||Can promote obedience (but more likely resentment – ha, how true!)|
Resources: Here’s a chapter of a text for teachers about avoiding punishments in classroom setting. This goes even further into the perils of using punishment, but also, less obvious to us, the dangers of using rewards as well!