Tag Archives: Reinforcement

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 12

Deutsch: Historische Federzeichnung einer schu...
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No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11 (NLT)

I still remember many of the spankings I received as a child. I don’t remember them because they were awful or excessive or unjust in any way. Spankings were relatively few in my home and reserved for times we’d totally been caught being naughty. For the record, I also remember sitting on the bathroom sink while my mom soaped up her hands and proceeded to wash the inside of my mouth out. I deserved that, too. Funny, my sister says she can’t remember ever getting a spanking, but she did. Several times. I guess I remember those for her.

As a parent one of the most difficult parts of the journey is disciplining your children. You don’t want to be too lenient, but you don’t want to be heavy handed. Each child is different in the way they respond to it, and every circumstance is different in the severity of discipline warranted. Appropriate discipline changes with the age of the child and his or her temperament. I had one child whom I could discipline with the mere look of disappointment and another child who seemed never to admit doing or saying anything wrong….ever. Needless to say, in our home discipline sometimes required different approaches depending on the offender.

No parent disciplines perfectly.

At the same time, discipline is required. It’s required for all of us if we’re going to develop into well adjusted and behaved people. We need clear understanding of right and wrong. We need to know when we’ve done well and when we’ve crossed over the line. We need appropriate negative reinforcement along with appropriate positive reinforcement.

Today, I’m thankful for parents who knew when to punish and when to praise. I’m thankful for good kids who responded to both pats on the back and pats on the butt. As the journey draws nearer to the time when my children may be having children of their own, I pray that they will find wisdom and balance in their own parenting. As I continue my journey as a child of the Creator, I pray that I will respond appropriately to both discipline and praise all the days of my life.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 29

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Words alone will not discipline a servant; 
      the words may be understood, but they are not heeded.
Proverbs 29:19 (NLT) 

When I read the proverb above this morning, a young woman popped into my mind. She works for a client and for a couple of years I’ve been sitting down with her in quarterly call coaching sessions to help her improve her service on the phone. Bright, articulate and intelligent, the young woman is capable of being a world-class service performer. But, she’s not. For a couple of years I’ve provided her with data, information, training, and coaching with regard to the handful of service skills that she needs to adopt to take her service to the next level. But, she won’t.

The management team at this particular business want their people to perform at a high level, but there has never been any kind of negative consequence if their employees refuse to do so. The employees, like this woman, know that she can sit through our coaching sessions, politely listen and then completely ignore what I’m telling her. Her supervisor has already proven that he will do nothing about it when her quality evaluation does not improve.

Over the years I’ve watched many children do the same thing. Parents toss a “no, no, don’t do that” across the room, but the child just smiles and continues their naughty behavior. He or she knows that mom and dad only say “no, no, don’t do that.” They never actually DO anything about it. There are no consequences for continuing to act out the naughtiness they’ve chosen, so why would they choose to modify their behavior?

The carrot or the stick? That’s the question leaders from the nuclear family to the business work grapple with. Do I encourage positive behavior change by offering a positive incentive or negative reinforcement? Believe me, I’m a fan of positive reinforcement in parenting and in management. I have come to the conclusion, however, that positive reinforcement alone will not work with everyone. There are some individuals who will only respond to negative reinforcement.

The mark of a good parent or a good leader is in their wisdom and discernment to utilize both the carrot and the stick appropriately and circumstantially in order to get the desired results that will benefit both the individual and whole.