+44 333 566 0067

Punishment vs Positive Reinforcement: Can punishment help deliver a better way forward? 0

Posted on 14, May 2018

in Category C-me Colour Profiling, coaching, Motivation


A few observations offered by David Rigby on the merits of different ways to get things right….

There appears to be a rise in the use of the word and deed of ‘punishment’ throughout the media and also in everyday life.


Not my Hat! - Alan Levine CC


In the UK, the British Government together with France and the USA have ‘punished’ Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons. Ignoring history, when Saddam Hussein from Iraq, was waged war on for having chemical weapons for which no evidence was ever found, punishment is all around us.  Children get punished for minor misdemeanours. A friend punished his dog by locking him up. Mobs punish anyone who isn’t like them.  A well known President threatens punishment in every utterance and his fans love it while the rest of the world despairs. Fortunately he doesn’t deliver.


In the old days, when administering the cane, the school teacher might say “this is hurting me more that it’s hurting you”.  Better that neither the teacher nor the student is hurt by not punishing at all. Instead, positive reinforcement – praising the good – is, or at least used to be, the way forward.


How does this affect each of us in our everyday lives?


All our behavioural profiles from C-me Behavioural Colour Profiling contain a section on “blind spots”. These are facets about ourselves that we perhaps know, but always chose to ignore, rather than acknowledge or fix. With politicians no amount of facts will sway the opinion they want to peddle.  But with ourselves – do we really want to believe our own hype? Or do we want to improve ourselves?  Punishing ourselves for eating the extra piece of cake with a two hour spinning class? What does that achieve? Eat more cake!


Positive ReinforcementPositive reinforcement is a technique where we, or a coach, will identify things we have done well or achieved.  And will express praise in positive language.  A bad coach may use negative language to try to say the same things – “Do not give up now” etc, putting the idea of ‘giving up’ into the coachee’s head, when the goal should be to keep the positive uppermost.  Recently in a young offenders institution in London ‘tough love’ was replaced by the reward of chocolate and cakes leading to a fall of 80% in assaults on staff in a year.  The all round improvement in morale meant the inmates became more social with each other and much less destructive.


So here are some great options:

Face up to your blind spots

Praise yourself for fixing them rather than punish yourself for having them

 And perhaps influence others to do the same.

David Rigby