Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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November 14, 2013

Consequences should be used sparingly

(Continued)

To the second assumption: Consequences work reliably, predictably, with dogs, rats and other lower life forms. They do not work reliably with human beings. It may surprise the reader to learn that no research psychologist, including B. F. Skinner (the father of behavior modification theory) himself, has ever conclusively demonstrated that rewards and punishments have predictable outcomes when used on humans. In fact, there is a growing body of anecdotal and research-based evidence to the effect that (a) rewards can actually lower performance and/or stimulate an increase in misbehavior, and (b) punishment can similarly backfire. Those risks are increased the more rewards and punishments are used.

When you hear a parent say, “I’ve punished my child consistently for misbehaving, and he keeps right on misbehaving,” the problem may be the first half of the parent’s statement.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents questions at parentguru.com.

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