Raising Children: Rewards & Penalties

Today I want to write about the idea of rewards and penalties.

As a child moves from the developmental stages of baby to toddler and then child it is important to teach them how to make their way in the world and how to get things they want in a social manner.

As an infant and up to the time when they can communicate more clearly with language the way to communicate is by crying.  As their ability to verbally communicate improves it is not always an immediate realization for some children that they can use those verbal skills to get the things they want.  Therefore they continue to cry, whine or tantrum in order to get what they want.  If a parent or care taker doesn’t recognize this they might be likely to give in to this just to achieve peace.  This is a mistake.

The more this is done the more the child will dramatize this over and over (which at this point almost becomes a sort of bullying) as this obviously is a “successful action” for them.

There are two correct things to do at this point 1) Start to establish house rules that are easily followed at this age and 2) Teach a child to use their communication skills in a happy and polite way to achieve their goals.  It is also a good time to teach them by example how to handle another’s considerations and to negotiate to work out how to get things at a later date if they can’t get what they want now.

L. Ron Hubbard noticed a very interesting fact of life that we tend to get those things we put our attention on. So if we put our attention on bad behavior or non-survival behavior that seems to be what we get more of. Here is a reference where he talks about that and how the Blackfoot Indians handled this in a very successful way.

“If you believe in this human being as a sane human being, he will act sane, not because you coax him to but because you are just validating this. This is his reality, then — the sanity. You’re telling him this is reality — his sanity. 

“All right. But supposing you treat him all the time as a neurotic or an aberrated human being. Immediately this person will become more neurotic. I mean, it just works out that way. Even people who are fairly well balanced, if they are around people who are entirely concentrated on nullification, people who are afraid or timid, people who count on their own superiority by making other people less superior, who count on that mechanism to get along in life, are very dangerous because what do they keep validating? They keep validating the shortcomings and the weaknesses of those around them, you see? And by validating those weaknesses and shortcomings they actually bring them into being and make the person weak and make him exhibit more and more shortcomings and so make the person less and less strong and win….

“It’s what you validate that counts….

“How would you raise a child using this same theory?

“For instance Indian children are very obedient, they are very cheerful. They’re quite something to be around. An Indian tribe in the old days used to be in connivance on every child. They were all plotting against this child’s insanity, because every time this child, voluntarily or otherwise, would pick up a stick of wood to put it on the fire, no matter who was there, they’d say, ‘Oh, what a good child.’

“Now, the child would go down to the brook and he was really intending to take this little bag of something down there and throw it away, and somebody would say to him, ‘Oh, you’re going to get some water, what a good child.’ ‘You’re helping your mother, what a good child.’ ‘You’re being obedient. You’re a good child.’ And when they were bad children, they ignored them. They just shut them off.

“Now, it requires pretty steady nerves and a lot of outdoors to do this. The only reason I’m using it is just to demonstrate there what you validate in a child.

“I’ve seen Indians work this, by the way — Blackfeet. It’s the most fascinating thing you ever saw in your life.

“This kid will suddenly look so bewildered. He’s caught off base. What he was actually intending to do was to blow up Bull Moose’s tent! And somebody says, ‘Oh, you’re taking that over to your father to give it to him. What a good child.’”

from  Science of Survival Lectures, 1951


Another thing a family (with children of any age) can and should implement that will help achieve putting one’s attention on the more pro-survival actions, is to create a rewards and penalty system.  There is a wide variety of ways to do this in every family but today I want to discuss one way that I have seen to be very successful and why I think it is important to a person’s future.

The Institutes for the Achievement for Human Potential has a very workable system that follows along with this basic premise of validating the rightness of the person that is also prevalent in the teachings of Scientology and in many other religions I have studied.  Again, I would like to impress that a family could take the premise and create any system that works best for their family.  I simply want to talk about one aspect of this system that I found works along with the tenets of getting the things you most validate.

The rewards in this case are published and posted up so the whole family can see and for them to follow.  And this is the important part that I wish to emphasize at this point.  The rule or as the Institute calls it “The Law” is published and put up where everyone can see it.  Their suggestion is to take one rule at a time and grove it in.

A law might be:  “Everyone must pick up their belongings (toys, clothes, work) and either put them away or place in the laundry, or throw away when they are done for that period of time.

This would then become a law for everyone, not just the children.

Another law might be:  “No yelling and screaming, only use good communication skills to handle others.”

Again this would then become a law for everyone in the family, not just the children.

For those who follow the rule rewards will be in place, such as enjoyment time with another family member of their choice.  Or perhaps a trip to the library, the park, a favorite meal, etc.  It can be as small as a big hug or as big as an earned toy.

For those who violate the rule there would be a penalty in place.  Something that works for your family.

Now what would be the value of this?  Let’s look at it.

First, it makes it clear to the entire family what the rules are“No eating in the Living Room” means no eating in the living room for parents as well as children and parents giving in to this would also be handled with a penalty as they would be setting a bad example, encouraging their child to violate laws…. Which in the world is frowned upon.   For instance how many people would say it is OK for their teen to run a red light just because they would want to?  Right?

Second, it teaches children how to achieve the best survival potentials in their environment by following laws and seeing for themselves that laws create order, organization and cooperation with others.

Thirdly, (and this is the one I most wanted to bring up today), it teaches children it is OK to, regardless of a person’s status or age to, in a polite way, handle others on breaking laws and rules.

Now, as a parent you might feel you don’t want your child to handle you about such things, that it would be disrespectful because as an elder you shouldn’t be the one handled.  But let’s look at it from this viewpoint of personal integrity as L. Ron Hubbard explains here:

“WHAT IS TRUE FOR YOU is what you have observed yourself and when you lose that you have lost everything.

What is personal integrity?
Personal integrity is knowing what you know–
What you know is what you know–
And to have the courage to know and say what you have observed.
And that is integrity.
And there is no other integrity.

Of course we can talk about honor, truth, all these things,
These esoteric terms.
But I think they’d all be covered very well
If what we really observed was what we observed,
That we took care to observe what we were observing,
That we always observed to observe.

And not necessarily maintaining a skeptical attitude,
A critical attitude, or an open mind.
But certainly maintaining sufficient personal integrity
And sufficient personal belief and confidence in self
And courage that we can observe what we observe
And say what we have observed.

Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you
Unless you have observed it
And it is true according to your observation.
That is all.”

From this viewpoint, if a child sees for him/herself that the rule creates cooperation, teamwork and peace in the house which then benefits their survival and they know for themselves that this is true, then by correcting the parent’s violation of this very pro-survival “Law of the house” they are then contributing to the survival of their parent, their family and themselves.

In learning this at an early age this then gives them the courage and bravery to speak up and handle others around them in society.  Now they are not only contributing to a better survival for themselves and their family, but for their friends, school, groups they belong to and eventually their community.  They will develop judgement to see for themselves what laws are truly pro-survival and which ones are actually contra-survival and will be learning to have the courage to work to change them to a more pro-survival law.

As I have repeated several times here, there are many ways to create and implement a rewards and penalty system for your family.  When I saw this one I thought it had merit for the reasons I mentioned.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

Wishing you joy,

Diane DiGregorio Norgard
Mace-Kingsley Family Center

1 thought on “Raising Children: Rewards & Penalties

  1. Hi Diane. Can you give me advice on “penalties”? We are doing well with lots of love and praise for good behavior and for holding ourselves accountable, but have not come up with a way to implement penalties. They all see too harsh and therefore we don’t do them. This means our little one often doesn’t see the importance yet of NOT doing the “bad” things. Any examples would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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