Spare the Rod & Spoil the Child?
Parenting style differs greatly between generations. I was brought up in the era of hands-on parenting style, and by hands-on I meant getting wacked by a cane and slapped around. Children these days have it easy. Physical punishment is frowned upon; the rational discussion approach is the preferred option of discipline. How do these two parenting styles stand up to each other?
In my last article, we explored how children develop their primary personality. While that is largely out of our control, parents are directly responsible for their children’s secondary personality development. You may get some “Ah-Ha” moments as you read this article and compare the signs to people you know.
Secondary Personality gets programmed through operational conditioning; the carrot and the stick. A child’s action based on his primary motivation will result in success or failure determined by his environment. Parents will correct attitude and behavior to instill what is more useful, in their opinion. Keyword here is: opinion.
Let’s take a look at this example: “Sit down and be quiet”.
Telling off an active child to do the opposite of his primary personality will result in him suppressing his motivation and pleasure, which will have a profound impact on his life’s choices when he grows older. The child may feel guilty for being active and outspoken, keeping himself in check each time he feels the urge to express himself.
Of course this doesn’t mean parents ought to let their children swing around poles in crowded MRT trains either. A more positive approach would be to offer the child an alternative output to express his energy. Like working on a puzzle for instance. The child won’t feel impeded and instead may start developing other personality types useful in certain situations.
So, on this aspect it seems like the modern parenting style has gotten it right. However, when rewards and positive motivation are used excessively, the child will develop a behavior that desires rewards to maintain motivation. This leads to a sense of entitlement, which contributes to the growing pool of spoilt brats we have today. Nobody is happy.
Here’s another popular example: Keeping the Room Clean. A generous parent may reward the child with an outing or a toy if he cleans up after himself. This creates a mindset that an action deserves an immediate reward. As the child grows older, he would stop cleaning the room if there isn’t any significant immediate reward. Then we get a situation where an apparent good habit disappears over night. When a child is punished for messing up the room, he begins to equate mess with pain. As he grows older, he would find a messy room discomforting and proceed to clean up after himself. That’s when the use of stick is important.
Here’s my challenge to parenting style for the next generation. We know now that the balance between carrot and stick is just as important. What I would like to see happen in the next wave of parenting approach is matching secondary personality types to primary personality. Instead of wanting a child to conform to a personality desired by the parents, why not find out what works best for the child and allow him or her to further develop confidence in those areas? When the primary and secondary personality type matches, the child will naturally be motivated, developed a healthy dose of self-esteem. The opposite will result in children seemingly having a lack of interest in any activity. Familiar?
Give the child ample opportunities to discover what works and what doesn’t. Give rewards sparingly. Punish when you need to instill in them a clear sign of right and wrong. Everything else is freeplay for you and the child to discover what works.
Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.
When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.