Essay Punishment Reward

In a previous article concerned with disciplining younger children, we discussed various techniques that are useful for motivating children's behavior. Some of these techniques are aversive and punishing but not dangerous (e.g., "Time-outs"), while others are designed to motivate children's compliance by giving out pleasant and desirable rewards (e.g., "sticker charts"). These techniques continue to be useful with school-aged children with some adjustments.


Time outs continue to be a powerful and effective means of motivating children's compliance through about age 11 or 12. The point of the time-out is to give a child the time and space they need to calm themselves down, regain the ability to think clearly, and then come back to the situation and make better decisions. While on an enforced time-out, children have the opportunity to learn how to "self-sooth" which is an important coping skill.

Though still appropriate for use with older children, the manner in which time-outs are offered may need to be modified in order for them to be effective for older children.

  • The time out location may need to be different for older children vs. younger children. Rather than sending children to the corner of the room they happen to be in when the problem behavior occurs, older children might be better served being sent off to their bedrooms. Wherever children are sent should be devoid of distracting or interesting media so that children do experience the timeout as aversive.
  • Also, the duration of a time-out should be longer for older children than for younger children. Time outs should last about 1 minute for every year of the child's age; so, for instance, a 10-year-old boy would have time outs that are 10 minutes in duration.

At any age, a time-out should be followed by a brief but explicit conversation between parent and child making clear exactly what rule was broken, why following the rule is important, what the expectation is next time that situation arises, and an expression of the parent's love for the child.

Time-outs are not just for children; They offer the entire family a temporary break from conflict. Time-outs offers parents as well as children time to cool off, to dissolve their anger, and to regain the ability to think clearly about the situation.

Because school-aged children are now older and more mentally and physically mature, any consequences that parents offer to them for misbehavior will likely need to be more intense or longer lasting than consequences useful for motivating little kids. Nevertheless, whatever consequences are offered must be realistic, logical, and effective for this age group. For example, if 10-year-old Jerrod leaves his bicycle outside in the driveway for the third time after two warnings, he might lose access to his bike for an entire week. When he was younger, he might have lost access for an hour. Now that he is older, Jerrod is able to understand and remember over long periods of time why he lost access to his bike and be capable of trying to follow the rules again after the negative consequence. When he was younger, his attention span and ability to comprehend the larger perspective was more limited, and thus the punishment that made sense was more limited in duration too.


Reward and punishment greatly factor into wiki policy and philosophy. People take certain actions under the assumption that it will influence a person's behavior in a certain way. However, in many cases, evidence is lacking as to the effectiveness of the rewards and punishments.

Examples are the principle of no shrines to vandals; the rule that pages created in violation of a block or ban can be deleted on sight; and WikiLove. It is assumed that people edit because they want some sort of attention, good or bad, or that they have an agenda to promote that they will give up on if people undo their work. It is not clear, however, exactly what motivates users to behave in the ways they behave, and some of the efforts to control or influence that behavior could be useless or even counterproductive.

In some cases, people are quite willing to sacrifice other organizational goals for the sake of rewarding or punishing users. Resources that could have gone to other code development projects were devoted to mw:Extension:Wikilove. Useful content is deleted in order to deter the banned editor who posted it.[1][2] Pages, templates and categories that might have been helpful in documenting a vandal's activities and making it easier to determine appropriate sanctions and compare observed user behavior to his behavior for sockpuppet identification purposes is deleted because it might be constitute a shrine to a vandal.

The question of what motivates editors is difficult to answer for many of the same reasons that the paradox of voting is such a conundrum. Wiki editors have been described as "completely masochistic in nature".[3] Why would someone invest so much time on a site that will likely mistreat him (e.g. by accusing him of conflicts of interest for editing articles concerning topics with which he has some personal involvement in meatspace) if he reveal their true identity, but will otherwise give him no credit (other than pseudonymously, and buried in a page history at which almost no one looks)? Some, perhaps, enjoy the experience as an MMORPG. Others have some cause they are trying to promote, with varying degrees of subtlety. Others, e.g. certain wikignomes who have no particular area of special interest, but help out all over the project, may take pride more than anything in contributing to a useful encylopedia.

For a variety of reasons, people sometimes announce that they are leaving and never coming back. Probably in most of these cases, the event that tipped them over the edge was not the only reason. There were probably other factors that made those editors not a good fit for Wikipedia. But there are some people who are hard to deter from editing. Some editors, having been banned, with all their edits reverted and all their articles deleted, have repeatedly come back, despite the punishment and disrespect they receive each time. Perhaps it is due to a miscalculation; a belief that it will be different the next time. It is hard to say, but in any event, it is clear than in those cases the punishment fails to deter.


  1. Kww. "G5".  
  2. Kusma. "G5 comments".  
  3. "Frequently Whined Questions". Wikitruth. 

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