Punishment Doesn’t Teach Behavior
Punishment - mild, severe, abusive - changes behavior only at the moment it is delivered.
Alan Kazdin is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. His work focuses primarily on child and adolescent disorders, behavior therapy, and clinical methodology, with over 600 articles and over 40 books and chapters published in these areas. He has served as Editor of many prominent psychology journals including the American Psychological Association’s Encyclopedia of Psychology. He was also the 2008 President of the American Psychological Association.
His latest book is "The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child."
There’s a huge myth that punishment changes behavior. As it turns out, punishment - mild, severe, abusive - changes behavior only at the moment it is delivered. It doesn’t change the overall level or rate of the behavior. So if you have a child that is doing something horrible and you smack them, it’ll stop it for the moment, but it won’t decrease the number of times they do the horrible thing.
And so we’ve learned from years of human work, animal work, that punishment doesn’t teach behavior. It doesn’t even get rid of behavior. So there’s an alternative. You have to decide what behavior you want, sometimes called the positive opposite, and then you make sure that you praise and encourage that. That makes the negative behavior drop out. You can actually eliminate a behavior by rewarding or praising the opposite behavior. Punishment won’t do it.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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