“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for a reward, we are a sorry lot indeed” – Albert Einstein

And I thought that Einstein was purely a theoretical physicist. He clearly had a far greater perspective on life than his passion and genius for physics and relativity would lead us to believe!

I think that it is safe to say that all parents would like their children to behave. Ideally we want to stimulate their cooperation so they choose to behave in an acceptable manner without the use of punishment, bribes and reward. These methods of control force children to behave for fear of punishment if they don’t and for a reward if they do.

What do you think drives / motivates your child’s behavior? Themselves, fear, rewards, bribes or a mix of a few?

Our Goal

The goal is to make our children want to behave, to foster intrinsic motivation in them so that they can make the wise choice of socially acceptable behavior.

Punishment – does it work?

Punishment is a negative form of discipline that might work in the short term because it is fear based. It forces the child to behave for fear of the punishment but it does not make them wiser. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Over time, it can harden their hearts and lead them to become manipulative, rebellious, resentful, revengeful and resistant. Punishment has its place within the authoritarian parenting model that defends superiority and reinforces competition between the parent and the child. In the long term, punishment is a discouraging method to control behavior.

Rewards – do they work?

Rewards are also a negative form of discipline that can work in the short term for obvious reasons; behave well, get a candy, get an A in your exams and get a cash bonus etc. What child would not want candy and what teen would not want cash? The use of rewards fosters dependence on an authority figure and are a sign of that person’s control. Rewards are external motivators used to drive behavior. Take away the candy or the cash and what happens? The child has no reason to behave and no reason to get an A. Remember our goal, to make our children want to behave and not by means of us controlling them. We want our children to be able to control themselves and develop their own internal drive to help them make the wise choice; to choose to behave because it is the right thing to do and to want to get an A because they know they will need it to get into a University of their choice. In the long term, the use of rewards robs children of the opportunity to develop their own internal drive and motivation.

The Answer

We want to work together with our children, to support and guide them, not rule over them and control them. We want to raise co-operative, socially responsible and ultimately, independent children who are instilled with their own motivation gauge and own drive to achieve success.

The use of consequences and limit setting are both positive forms of discipline that will help foster intrinsic motivation in our children. In a previous blog, I wrote about the benefits of setting limits:


In my next blog, I will be discussing the use of consequences and how to use them effectively. Consequences are an extremely valuable tool for your parenting repertoire, provided of course that there is consistency in their application. Like any successful intervention, consistency is the key.

If you have any questions regarding challenging behavior or are confused as to what you think might be driving / motivating your child’s behavior, please send them my way, I would be very happy to try and help you.

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