Corrective Parenting

  Hey, hey, everybody! Andee here. Today we’re talking about corrective parenting. This is the opposite of what I teach. I want to be very clear on that. But I think it’s really important to define it, to establish where it came from so that we can understand where we are, where society is, and how we got here.

History of Corrective Parenting

Let’s talk about the science, the data and the history. I know, you’re so excited!!!! Corrective parenting can be partially traced back to the work of two psychologists. What I am about to tell you isn’t a complete history, but we do not have time for a complete history. We’re getting the abbreviated history today so that we can understand why we want to depart from this framework of parenting.

John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner did work in behavioral psychology. They did experiments and studies that supported the framework of behavioralism within psychology. Behavioralism is also known as “Behavior modification”, “Learning theory” and “External Control Theory”

Behavior modification is centered around the idea that things outside of us, positive and negative consequences or stimuli – as they are often called – are what shape behavior and really shape a person.

Evidence for Behavior Theory

Let’s begin our discussion by talking about what John B. Watson and BF Skinner found, shall we? So here’s what happened. They had some labs, they set them up, they had pigeons and rats in there. They discovered, big surprise, that they could get these pigeons and rats to do whatever they wished if they just gave them a consequence of a positive nature or a negative nature.

Positive consequences increase the desired behavior, negative ones decrease it. Pretty straightforward. Watson and Skinner published their findings and concluded that this was how we train humans. In fact, they said there’s no difference between these pigeons and rats, and humans.

Now, I’m going to give them a little bit of a pass. The findings that we have in neuropsychology that contradict these ideas weren’t out then. So, that was the conclusion they drew based on their experiments. I honor them as people who are trying to do their best. I think they were. However, I believe their conclusions were erroneous and wrong about humans.

There is no doubt that behavior theory works well with rats and pigeons. I mean, I have the cutest sheepadoodle. Her name’s Leia. Yes, like Princess Leia. I love sci fi stuff that has outer space in it. So her name is perfect. But she is the epitome of perfection when I have her special treats out, she can be well trained using external stimuli, just like the rats and pigeons from Watson and Skinner’s experiments.

Behavioralism is Flawed When Used on Humans

Where they went wrong is when they said this also applies to humans. Some people call this process conditioning. It’s basically saying that behavior is simply boiled down to a response with external stimuli. In parenting, we call this punishments and rewards, which is really just another name for consequences, positive (rewards) and negative (punishments) consequences.

I sometimes have moms say, “a consequence isn’t a punishment!” How frequently are you giving a consequence to teach a lesson or take away a privilege because they don’t deserve it anymore? That’s punitive, guys. You don’t give consequences when your kids are doing their chores or listening to you respectfully. Within a parenting context, punishments and consequences are interchangeable.

Do they have to be? No. But typically we don’t give them to our kids in a way that is not connective. It’s corrective. It’s punitive. Watson and Skinner believed that humans were this blank slate and that through conditioning, by giving external consequences and rewards, they could create any kind of behavior they wanted.

Now, I’m going to take a little pause here and say, to a degree, it is true. We can use control and manipulation techniques to get someone to do what we want them to do. However, once the consequence or reward are withdrawn. The behavior returns to its previous state. Meaning the modification of the behavior only lasts as long as the external stimuli are there.

As parents, is that what we really want? To be walking around and having to continually dish out consequences and rewards, giving these external stimuli, positive and negative, to get the kids to behave certain ways?

What is going to happen when they move out? Even though temporarily, yes, we can get our kids to do certain things or not do certain things, giving them certain rewards or consequences. This is not going to help them fulfill their potential. They’re not going to see the beauty in the lesson.

We’re trying to teach them and light up their intrinsic motivation so that they stay on that path. We’ll not do any of those things. Just because someone says the world is flat, that you should wear those leggings from the 80s that were super weird, or that no fat diets are the way to go does not make any of those things true.

Just because the majority of people believe something doesn’t mean it’s right.

The majority of the people are still thinking that you make sustainable, long lasting change by using external consequences and rewards. However, the science proves it for animals, but for humans, if you look at neuroscience, if you look at developmental psychology, the data is in.

This is not where it’s at anymore. Behavior mod is so yesterday. A lot of parents have come to this conclusion that discipline is the essence of parenting. No, guys, it’s not true. Discipline is not the essence of parenting. If you want to be on the discipline train for the entire time you’re parenting, you can do that, but it’s going to be exhausting and it’s not going to yield the fruit you want.

The True Essence of Parenting

Parenting is not about telling your kids what they can and can’t do all day long. It’s about creating an environment that allows them to fulfill their potential. This is what parenting is. It’s about relationships. It’s about connection. It’s about accepting them for who they are. It’s about letting them process their emotions.

It’s not about sticker charts, it’s not about timeouts, it’s not about taking away their favorite toy or their friend privileges to try to get them to do their chores or be nice to each other. That’s not going to create this sustainable change, that’s not going to ignite their intrinsic motivation. Constantly using external stimuli to try to change, fix, control and manipulate their behavior comes at a huge cost.

It disconnects the relationship. It actually fractures it. And to me, this is the saddest part. It often creates a story in our child’s brain where they start to believe that something’s wrong with them and that maybe mom can’t handle them, or maybe that they are mean, or they don’t have any self control and they start to believe some narratives about themselves that are very damaging.

It also messes with their perception of safety. One of the most important things that our children need is to feel safe and taken care of by their adult. And When they are feeling us correct them and be frustrated by them, they are not feeling safe with us. So their nervous system is going into fight or flight mode and that doesn’t allow them to connect with us.

That doesn’t increase our relationship and our bond and our feelings of love and tenderness we want to have with them. Ultimately when we have those feelings of love and tenderness with them, we have more impact and influence, which creates more opportunity for them to fulfill their potential.

So we’re working against that when we are correcting in a negative way that triggers their nervous system. And none of us do well when we’re in a state where someone’s constantly harping on us, nagging us, correcting us, or letting us know how much we’ve messed up, or how disappointed they are with us.

Watson had the audacity to say that there is no measurable distinction between human and animal behavior. You guys, I know he didn’t have all the science back then, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. In reality, there are a lot of measurable and distinguishable differences between a human and a pigeon or a rat or other animals.

Our prefrontal cortex is one of the major differences. It’s a pretty amazing, unique thing. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that allows us to have logic and reason and think about our thinking. It helps us intentionally create our life.

Corrective Parenting Helps No One

It’s very interesting to really look at the beginnings of the parenting framework that we have adopted, hook, line, and sinker. It helps us understand that it is high time for us to to let that framework go and to move into something that’s more aligned with the current science.

So what I want you to think about is how the corrective mindset puts us in a place where we are functioning as the engineer, as the sculptor. We are in charge of creating the masterpiece. It is all up to us. It’s like we have this marble that we’re trying to turn into the perfect statue. That’s the corrective mindset approach. The connective mindset approach of parenting is about being the shepherd. Realizing I have all these sheep (your kids), andt I want to guide them, I want to lead them, I want to help them be successful and thrive.

A better way to think about our roles as parents is that we are the gardener who has seeds (our kids) that are obviously not in his control if it becomes a tulip or an oak tree. His job is not to create the plant, it’s to nurture the plant to help it thrive and grow. It’s a big difference. Science supports the connective framework, that gardener approach.

We get the seeds and we have to figure out how to create an environment where they can thrive. Do they need a lot of sun? Do they need a little bit of sun? Do they need a lot of fertilizer or a little fertilizer? And this is what we’re doing as parents as we’re discovering what each of one of our children need.

Connective Parenting!!

This is where the perspective of a gardener comes in. We are looking at creating the environment for our little seeds, for our little children, and we’re figuring out what they need. How many hours of sleep do they need? We’ll start with that. It’s a pretty simple one. Do they need 12 hours? I need about eight hours of sleep!

My husband needs about six. Physiologically, it’s just the way it is. I have a son who’s better on 10 hours.. If he gets less than 10, it’s not good for him. We all have our unique idiosyncrasies not just with our physical bodies, but with our emotional state as well.

Some of my kids are more emotional and they need more space to process them. Some are more cerebral and they want to talk logic and reason. So it is our job as parents to create environments for out kids to thrive. There’s no right or wrong environment. There are simply environments where they can thrive. And that comes from realizing that it’s not my job to decide if they’re a tulip or an oak tree.

It’s my job to help them thrive. This is really valuable information. When we can see it through this lens, we can see where the roots of corrective parenting came from. We can truly decide to stop practicing corrective parenting once and for all. That is an important realization to come to because if you don’t realize the impact of the corrective mindset, the impact on the relationship when we’re constantly managing their behavior, the impact on their internal dialogue about themselves, the internal motivation they have, then we can’t realize we need to stop it.

And we won’t have the commitment to say, I’m willing to do this, even though it’s going to feel a little bit scary to start fueling my parenting by connection to trust that if I can strengthen the relationship, I will have more impact and influence with my child.

If I am able to show up compassionately and firmly when I need to set a limit, I will give their nervous system space to process the disruption or the disappointment that they’re going through and that serves them.

There are ways to set very firm connective limits that do not disrupt the relationship, but that don’t let them just go wild, that honors out children’s nervous system, and emotional state, who they are. We don’t have to be fueling our parenting with correction, with punishments, with rewards.

They don’t even work long term, so it’s funny that we’re so hooked on them, but it seems like many people are addicted to them (I know I used to be). And so to think, I can live a life without them, without things going crazy is a little scary. Stepping into the darkness, is scary, but it’s a decision that we all need to make. So be thinking about what are your reasons for wanting to hold on to those corrective techniques?

Why Are You So Loyal To Corrective Parenting Methods?

If it is are because you’re afraid of what will happen, then I want you to dive into that. Why? What are you afraid of? You afraid the kids will just go off the rails? Are you afraid you’re going to be passive? You’re going to have no control?

You want to understand it because your brain is going to want to hold on to them. My challenge to everyone is to make the decision today to stop parenting with correction and consequences. It is time to stop. We are beginning a parenting revolution. That’s what’s happening here. It’s backed by science. It’s only a matter of time. It’s inevitable. When we know the roots of corrective parenting, it’s a lot easier to step away from them.

They’ve done a study, I can’t remember the age, my brain says toddlers, but they might have been older, where they took two groups of kids and they asked them to do a task and one group was rewarded. Then they asked both groups to do a second task. The group that was rewarded was less likely to do the second task.

We think rewards are all the rage. That they’re going to help and make everything better. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t work. Our kid’s intrinsic motivation is not ignited by a reward, it’s ignited by something deeper. As humans, we have deep meaning and purpose to make a difference, to do the right thing, to create influence and move out into the world and do big things.

What I will say is that when you step into connective parenting, it feels better. The kids want to listen to you. Your relationships get better. Everything gets better. The decision you have to make is to step away from relying on those corrective ways of parenting there. They can become a crutch that we’re just accustomed to, but we realize they’re not really working.

Because if they worked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If those consequences and rewards actually worked, we wouldn’t be having any parenting problems.

They would all be solved and our kids would be doing all the things. But they’re not because the consequences and rewards train goes against our human nature. It goes against our highest thinking, against the very spirit of who we are as humans.

So step away from the corrective consequences. Do it today. And if you have questions, if you are concerned about anything, comment below.

This is important work, you guys. I know that parenting is your number one job, the most important job you’ll ever have. And we want to really step up to the plate and do it in a way that we can look back and give ourselves a high five. Yes, we did it. And that as they become adults, we’re not losing that connection with them.

They’re calling us for advice. One of the best gifts is now as my kids are getting older, my oldest is 23, my youngest is 15, I have kids asking for advice, wanting input, and then just sharing the things that are happening in their life. And that’s what we want, and that’s what I want for you.

I hope you have a new perspective on what corrective parenting is, where it came from, and why it is time to officially… Kick that crazy thing out of the house and let the new parenting partner move in. 

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Andee Martineau

Andee’s a mom of 6, reformed yeller, and the creator of Connect Method Parenting. She’s on a mission to help moms feel in control, bring the fun back into parenting, and ditch the yelling, corrections, and endless feelings of failure!

Can you imagine your kids happily listening to you, helping around the house, confiding in you, and getting along with their siblings? She’s got you covered with simple, scientifically-sound steps to do just that (that actually work. For real!)

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