Parenting, Praise and Punishment:

Emotional intelligence literacy is often taught “in lieu of” other skills, or to undo skills taught that are not manifesting positively in behavior in relationships, school or at home. What is the “in lieu of” exactly?

What causes the need for emotional intelligence literacy in the first place? The language of praise and punishment and the consequences of praise/punishment language.

The effect of praise and punishment is something that really needs to be examined in our culture. How we have been praised, how we praise, how we have been punished, how we punish is directly related how we parent and our world view.

It may seem that this isn’t anything wrong with praise. However, praise and punishment are two sides of the same coin. When a parent is punishing (defined below in verbal and non verbal ways) the punishment is actually validating, affirming another desired behavior. Examples for communication that doesn’t involve a praise/punishment are here.

Parents use praise and punishment to teach. Teach right and wrong, teach consequences, teach good from’s about getting the results we want.

After learning about praise/punishment communication, it’s impossible not to see people through that lens in regards to human development and interaction. One can observe time and time again in every situation, “How has this person experienced praise/punishment?” A primary example is leadership style. How a person leads as an adult is often a result of how they were led. Control over others and a fear of losing that control stems directly from praise/punishment style in childhood.

This is a very light overview of this topic (the introduction to a research essay I am working on for my Adolescent Psychology course). I will be focusing on this topic in my research in my School Psych Ph.D program in forthcoming years. I started creating archetypes of adults who use praise/punishment to parent. Consider how your parents parenting you, how you are parenting your kids and how teachers use them with students, and administrators use them with teachers. Presidents use them to lead.

Here’s 3:

1. Children who are praised and punished nonverbally. Praise is being invited, included, being ingratiated, treated kindly, compassionately towards whereas punishment is alienation, withdrawing love, ignoring, denying feelings, discrediting. Children who had this type of punishment/praise archetype often grew up to exhibit the opposite. In the absence of language, they were assertive, overcompensating to be heard and often made declarations.

2. Children who are praised and punished with verbal statements from the parent such as, “I am so disappointed” or “I like it when you…” were raised by parents who made praise/punishment all about themselves.

This can result in adults who felt a need for validation, dependence on approval, who held back a bit, a tad unsteady in their self confidence, wanting to “check with” someone before taking a risk, unsure of themselves when tested outside their home, without the ability to bounce off their parent if their own ideas were “good” or “right”, left them slightly wobbly in their ability to make decisions and feel good about them without deferring to someone else.

3. Children who were praised or punished by default of seeing another child in the family praised or punished. Often caregivers, even Principals make an example of a child or a student to show the other children what they want. In the absence of clarity and direct communication, children draw conclusions, often the wrong ones.

It’s worth being aware of how we praise and punish in our society from parenting to teaching practices. We see Trump praising and punishing as a method to control and influence. HIs method for leadership is literally being defining by the praise/punishment dynamic he was raised with.

The dynamic we are raised with will play out in parenting. The praise punishment dynamic also places out in the workplace, causing a cycle of stress in the workplace.

When someone uses this dynamic to control other people, they are creating a foundation for psychological manipulation as the guidelines for success and the bull’s eyes can move at any time to suit the needs of the power struggle as it plays in various circumstances. Everything becomes a test of pass fail, praise, punishment, accept, deny, without any overarching principles of engagement to guide the relationship.

Consequences of Praise/Punishments in the Workplace and in Family:

A work relationship is not about pleasing a boss. It’s about serving the mission of the organization. A family relationship is not about pleasing a parent, it’s about a child developing into the person they were meant to be with the parent standing by, next or behind as the unconditional love and guiding force.

A person caught in this trap in a family has conditional love (love that comes with conditions) from the family. Everyone else in the family may watch how one is treated and subconsciously mold their behavior to please the parent.

They can see through the treatment of one child what will keep them close to the parent and act accordingly. If a child doesn’t seek a parents approval or seem to need it, they are punishment, and soon the parent declares (often through behavior not words) his/her demand for power.

That child is punished in some way, usually by backhanded discrediting or overt alienation. This has a ripple effect because on the other hand people who are successful pleasers gain followers in their siblings as others seek to adjust their behavior through the praise/punish dynamic. Pleaser children often tattle tale or use the “naughty” child to show their parent how “very pleasing” they can be.

The best pleaser in the family is often rewarded as the one who the parent “appoints” the most authority as they can now be a representative of themselves. You see this in work place situations as well.

Anyone who engages in praise/punishment as their method of leadership or control, is creating a dsyfunctional dynamic, and often appoint a minion or a representative that furthers the dysfunction. These employees or children often get special privileges. Most commonly the boss or parent will grant more time with them or access to certain rights.

The silent message to the other children, “this one behaves, this one I can trust.” It’s degrading to the others. They are now caught in playing. They actually now have two people to please: the parent or boss who created this dysfunction and the appointed child who is the go between for them.

The appointed one also gets to be the mouthpiece for the parent or boss who set up this dynamic in their absence. This sets up resentment between siblings, which ironically becomes a tool the parent or boss can then use to further enhance the Praise Punishment dynamic and their control over their children or employees.

Everyone has to play a role. This method of power dynamic requires someone to be the appointee because now the parent/boss can use the appointed child or employee as a model to defer to to further control the other and walaa!, a new form of punishment is born: alienation or demotion of the others.

At this point the appointed one (the one perceived to be the best at receiving favor or praise from the parent or boss) begins to feel empowered. They walk different. Sensing the others need him or her in order to be successful in the dynamic, they become emboldened with courage, bravado and confidence knowing they have their parent’s or bosses’ ear should anyone cross them. The parent or boss will frequently reward the appointee for they loyalty by squashing out anyone who threatens them.

The appointee is becomes highly comfortable, often turning the appointee from the weak insecure desperate to please inner condition into a new found arrogance. They think they’ve done something to deserve respect from the others (not realizing they are caught in a low level ego manipulation from a parent or boss who has never been taught leadership skills).

You will now see the rest of the work community or family assemble around the appointed child or employee as they now needs to transfer some of their need for praise to the appointed one. They don’t have a choice, as the main minion in charge has now become a secondary person to gain praise from in order to be successful in the work community or family set up by the parent or boss.

Again, everyone is cast in a role in this dynamic. The people in the work community or the family are caught up playing out roles thinking – if they are unaware of this type of psychology – it is real. They based their identity off these Praise Punishment dynamics. They believe “I am really am in favor. I must be “good” at my job. I am good at being in the family.” It’s not good at all in reality. It’s appeasing someone’s ego, someone’s fear, someone’s idea of what they need in order to maintain control. It’s a massive delusion created to suppress the group and prohibits growth in every possible way. No one is safe to make a mistake, grow, take a chance, be heard for their feelings.

In every possible way, this dynamic forces everyone in it to live a shadow of their true selves. Furthermore, since the rules are man made by one person, what happens when that person is not there? The boss or parent who created what constitutes praise and punishment ceases to enforce. Then what? The measurement for success in the dynamic disappears the moment the boss or parent does.

Praise Punishment Dynamics are a cornerstone of low level leadership tactics. They are used when the person in charge is ill equipped to handle the role he/she is in and relied on (initially) out of survival to maintain order or establish power. In order for a change to occur, one of two things must take place:

The children or employees caught in the dynamic have to align completely and bring to light through communication the problem to the boss or parent. In order for this to happen, every person must be on board. This often will not happen due to the appointee. The appointee is benefiting too much to advocate for a change and will block the change, and dismiss dissenting voices, (often by discrediting them). This ironically further cements their position as appointee with the boss or parent (when they catch wind of the impending revolt, a period of immense praise and reward follows for the appointed one). Anyone who is benefiting from the Praise Punishment dynamic at this point aligns against dissenters.

Then, anyone who dissented either stays in dissent or best scramble to kiss some you know what and say “oh I never really felt anyone was wrong here” real (real) quick. It’s all based in fear, all based in fear of losing love and acceptance from the one person they perceive matters: that parent or boss.

The parent and boss is just short of committing a psychological crime as they are intentionally manipulating the innate human need for love and acceptance in a job or family. Appointees are willing to the look the other way to this crime because they are benefiting. They feel safe often convincing themselves that they dissenters are wrong as they serve a wonderful and perfect boss or parent (they truly feel this way as they are only experiencing the good in exchange for their loyalty). So it’s near impossible. Highly unlikely. Due to the appointee.

The second thing that could happen if there was to be a change is the parent must desire a change (also known as growth mindset). The growth mindset is the new buzzword. (Side note: if you’re getting a teaching job, make sure you mention it in the interview). It’s just another word for “you’ve kept an open minded and are committed to being a learner as opposed to a an old fart who’s mind is closed.” People who are open minded have a growth mindset. People who have a closed mind have a fixed mindset.

A parent or boss who has been playing out the Praise Punishment Dynamic for eons and then some, well, it’d be a miracle if they came to their senses. However a boss is more likely to change as work communities have stronger checks and balances on dysfunction.

Parents tend to make up their own rules in the confounds of their homes and families and there are no consequences, especially if the family eventually concedes into submission and accepts it at normal. Anyone who dissents is discredited or alienated to remove the threat.

Final thoughts: if you live in this Praise Punishment Psychological dysfunction, and still want to remain in your family, then at least speak up for those who were case as the punished. If you are at a job that functions this way (so many schools do, it’s unbelievable) then get your positive references and quietly move on.

The problem with Workplace Praise Punishment is it turns productivity into “being a worker bee for the boss” and reduces growth in staff into how they can secure their position with the boss. The students are the most affected since teachers are too focused on whether their in favor or not in favor with the Principal that day to freely open their minds to create, design, be themselves and live in an energy space of safety.

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Chrissy Harmon B.A. Boston College, M.Ed. Lesley University, Ph.D. Student School Psychology UMASS Amherst, Teaching Licenses: Middle School 5-8 High School 9-12 Design and Visual Communications 9-12, Author Clueberry World, Mother of Grace 13, Sean 12, Izzy 10



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