Sometimes the most harm done with punishment is the fact we often punish the wrong behavior.
As we all settled into our seats at the dining room table, we looked out the windows to see the nasty and dark Florida evening storm clouds that had popped up from nowhere. When we were all looking outside, we noticed a car driving by and then a dog leaping out the window.
Did you see that? Did they just throw that dog out?
The guys all hopped up from the table going with wives following to see what the deal was. The dog rushed to the front door of the home.
This dog was freaked out. It had jumped from the car. The people in the car had picked him up, trying to find his owner. By the time we figured this out, it was scratching at the door and with each crrraaaccck of lightening the tail went between his legs, his rear end scraped the ground and he crawled along the outside of the house.
Not long after, we saw a truck speedily turning the corner. A big and bald man hopped out of the truck, leash in hand, and chased after his lost and scared pooch.
With one sudden movement with his right arm, he scooped up is “best friend” and proceeded to scold the dog with a harsh voice that made me cringe all the while taking the leash and popping the rear end of the dog.
Welcome home, Fido.
As always, I thought immediately about the behavior of the dog and how it might tell us something about how we are with our kids.
Do we sometimes scold our kids at the wrong time for the wrong behavior? Probably.
Think about it. Have you ever seen someone call a dog back to the house, “GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!” only to hit the dog when it returns. Do you think that dog is going to be more likely to come back the next time? No.
The wrong behavior is punished. Coming back is actually the behavior you want, right? If there is a behavior to be punished, it is the going away behavior. Hard to punish, by the way.
This problem also comes into play when dealing with children telling “fibs” or not exactly exposing the truth. We ask them to tell us something bad they have done instead of lying about it, then we punish them for telling us the truth.
Are you punishing the bad behavior or the good truth telling? I think it is the latter…
If you are going to punish a behavior, make sure it is the correct one. Some people worry that they will miss an opportunity to punish a behavior, that the kid will “get away with it” if they do not deliver some sort of punishment. Silliness.
Think about it…I would rather you miss an opportunity to punish a bad behavior rather than punish the wrong behavior just to make yourself feel better.