Rewards and punishment. These two create balance–we thought at one time. If you do something good or right, you are rewarded. If you do something wrong, you are punished. Then we had a middle ground–where the situation bordered on one or the other and so neither reward or punishment were given.
Today’s culture demands rewards and frowns (deeply) on punishment. And yet our jails are full. In an odd paradox, we don’t want punishment for ourselves, or our loved ones, or our children; but we demand it for someone who does something to us or against us.
The dichotomy in this area leaves me wondering if the lack of discipline (which includes punishment or at least an unpleasant consequence to wrong behavior) isn’t the reason that our jails are full.
When children or adults receive no consequences for their actions (or only rewards) then they come to expect that. As they grow and move into society, the laws of society and the expectations of others–about their actions–become more stringent. But the child or adult doesn’t realize this. He or she doesn’t understand that consequences (and, yes, punishment) for his or her actions are not only in play, but can be harsh.
Programmed by having no consequences to bad actions, they think “I can do what I want. No big deal. I’ll be fine.” When they are denied something or frustrated at not getting what they want, they lash out at the person or persons they think are responsible.
Their thinking revolves around the fact that someone was mean to them, and that person should pay. They admit punishment is right for other’s wrong behavior, but don’t see it as required for theirs. Mixed up in this “I’m entitled to everything I want” attitude is a lack of concern or respect for other people and their needs or wants. Frustrated that they are not getting their own way, they cannot see that the other person also has wants and desires that are equally as important as theirs.
So, he or she strikes out at the mom or dad or teacher or the other students in the classroom or the person at work they’re aggravated with and kills them–imparting what he sees as their just punishment for wrongdoing (imagined or not). Then he or she is either killed by the police or thrown into jail–receiving an extreme punishment for an extreme act.
Dealing with frustration, with others who are unfair or mean, and with not getting your own way, are all part of “growing up”–something that many in our society today, no matter what their age, have not learned. Everything is everyone else’s fault. Again, the thinking is that I should just be able to do whatever I want without suffering any consequences. Wrong. Life, reality and truth are not like that.
We damage our children, and do them harm, when we only reward and not punish (for all those who don’t like the word punish, think unpleasant consequence).