Role Of Reward And Punishment In Child Development

When kids are growing up, they take cues and learn what is right and wrong by observation, but they also learn so with deliberate yet indirect techniques applied by their parents. A basic tool to parenting and child development, rewarding upon good behaviour and punishing upon bad behaviour is a part of every parent’s routine and every person’s childhood. The combined force of rewards and punishment is what frames most of our personality, ethics, confidence and self-esteem as an adult. Knowing what is wrong, what mistake one is not supposed to commit again and differentiating bad from good is only realized when one is taught that it is bad in the first place. And that only happens with punishment. Similarly, upon doing something praise-worthy, if the person’s efforts are acknowledged with reward, it only boosts them with confidence and furthermore, motivates them to do better.

However, this psychological tool of reward and punishment go beyond just these simple parenting tools. The role of reward and punishment may even prove to be hazardous for the child’s overall personality if applied in the wrong sense. There is more to simply punishing your child when he makes a mistake according to you and giving him a candy when you feel he deserves it. Here is what every parent/guardian should know about them.


At the mention of the word ‘punishment’, it is easy to conjure up an image of physical violence or confiscation of your favourite things because that is what most adults wrongly perceive it as. And as a result, most children grow up defining punishment as exactly that—brutal, aggressive, and insensitive. However, in real terms, a child is punished because he has done something wrong, and the reason he is punished is to make him realize the same. Now, physical punishment, attacking the child’s self-worth and personality, threatening his personal space or things are definitely not the kind of punishments that are conducive to child development.


The whole purpose of a punishment is to provide the child with a lesson. When he does something wrong, and you use subtle punishment like time out, involving a reward, a good, heart-to-heart conversation about their mistake and mutually deciding on a punishment, or cutting down privileges like the TV time, play time, etc., the child may actually learn a lesson out of it.


As much as a punishment is important for a child’s development, rewarding them when they deserve is just as important. Often, parents consider the role of punishment but neglect that of rewarding. When a child does something even remotely good, it is advisable to commend them on that behaviour. A simple pat on the back or a few kind appreciative words can do wonders to a child’s self-confidence.


Knowing when to punish and when to reward is something every parent needs to know. Sometimes, a punishment given on something that is not even a mistake can be hampering for his growth. Similarly, praising and appreciating a child when he actually deserves a punishment may develop foul ethics in the child’s mind. It is extremely crucial to know when the tools of punishing and rewarding come to play.

Written and Edited by - Akshi Ranka

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