Parents may use behavioural parenting strategies such as logical consequences or praise, but use them from a standpoint of dispensing justice. They may even take a punitive approach, believing that if a child has done the wrong thing then they deserve to be punished, to suffer for their wrong doing. Or they may simply believe that children must be made to recognise that they did the wrong thing, perhaps also being made to apologise. Such parents may also view rewards, praise, or even affection as needing to be earnt with good behaviour. To make this ‘fair’, they may also believe that all children should be treated the same. If Johnny is praised for sitting still, then Susie must be praised for sitting still too.
However, this view is fundamentally at odds with a behavioural (or contextual) view of parenting. From a behavioural (or contextual) view the aim of behavioural parenting strategies is to instigate behaviour change. The grand aim of parenting is to ensure that your child develops a broad and flexible repertoire of adaptive behaviours. Justice doesn’t enter into it. The aim of generating behaviour change informs the development of behavioural parenting strategies such as logical consequences or praise. They weren’t designed to be ways to dispense justice, but ways to instigate behaviour change.
If you find yourself caught up in thoughts about justice or fairness you might like to consider this:
What really is your goal here? What’s more important? Ensuring that your child’s behaviour changes with time? Ensuring that your child develops a broad and flexible repertoire of adaptive behaviours? Or punishing your child, ensuring that they suffer for their wrong doing? Ensuring that anything positive is fairly earnt?
Because these two broader aims are often in conflict…
Apply it to your life: Do you get hooked by thoughts about justice or fairness? What’s more important, that, or behaviour change?