Money as a Means of Discipline

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How do you feel about using money as a means of disciplining children? My ex-wife has developed a system of "Stars and De-merits" with our children—6 and 8 yrs old. They are awarded for good behavior with stars or dollars, and when misbehaving they receive demerits and money is taken away. She feels that this system allows her to adequately control the kids but I feel that our kids are becoming obsessed with money and expect rewards/money for everything they do. I am afraid that this system is teaching my kids poor values, my wife disagrees. Please help. Thank you for your input. Jack



You are on the right track, Jack. There is so much research on the negative long-term effects of both punishment and rewards. I highly recommend Alfie Kohn's book, "Punished by Rewards" where he says:" The unsettling news is that rewards and punishments are worthless at best, and destructive at worst, for helping children develop values and skills." What rewards and punishments do produce is temporary compliance. They buy us obedience. If that's what we mean when we say they "work" then yes, they work wonders.

But if we are ultimately concerned with the kind of people our children will become, there are no shortcuts. Good values have to be grown from the inside out. Praise and privileges and punishments can change behavior (for a while), but they cannot change the person who engages in the behavior -- at least, not in the way we want. No behavioral manipulation ever helped a child develop a commitment to becoming a caring and responsible person. No reward for doing something we approve of ever gave a child a reason for continuing to act that way when there was no longer any reward to be gained for doing so.

Following is a quote from our book," Positive Discipline A-Z": Using money for punishment or reward is a short term solution. Giving allowances as an opportunity to teach children about money is long-range parenting that leaves children with life skills.

Just as with punishment, most parents would prefer not to use rewards if they knew what else to do that would be effective with their children for both immediate and long-range results. All of our books are filled with methods other than punishment and reward to teach children the life skills they need to be happy, successful adults.


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