Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crime and Punishment

When we are young, we learn things about the way the world works. If we are lucky, or blessed...don't chide me for using the "L" word...we begin to learn the things that form and grow a conscience within us. Right and wrong are pretty cut and dried when you are little. Wrong doing equals disapproval and punishment. Right doing often brings rewards. I recently discovered I have a Montessori philosophy when it comes to rewarding children for "good behavior" or work well done. I don't believe in it. I believe that doing right is its own reward. I believe children can come to know this very early. But right doing certainly brings down showers of blessing. In an ideal world/home it brings down happiness and approval. Children bask in these things. Add a little sugar and they'll do anything for you.

What if when you were young you did not learn these things? What if a conscience was something that never got "wired in"? What if no one cared one way or the other what you did? What if you learned not to care much about anyone or anything? Would promises of rewards inspire you? Would the threat of disapproval worry you? Would the concepts of loss or gain attached to your behavior mean anything at all? What if the only fun or thrill you got was when you did something others clearly saw as "wrong doing", and you got away with it? Or maybe you got caught, but it was at least mildly entertaining to watch someone who cared get all worked up over the stupid thing?

I don't know what the outcome of such an experiment would be, but I do know this; take a couple of each sort of child, drop them into a family, and call them brothers and sisters, and it makes for a very interesting home life. At this point I must say that neither philosophy seems to be rubbing off on anyone else. It just causes a lot of friction and sparks. So if you see a halo of something that looks like the Northern Lights hanging over the old homestead here at camp, I guess you'll know why.


DJ Dual Core said...

Sparks indeed.

I think the way right and wrong is intertwined with the value placed on relationships is very interesting. With RAD kids, where the entire constellation of relating to and valuing others is deprecated, so goes right and wrong.

What I have observed in my RAD kids, especially when they were younger, is that relationships mystify them. The ideas we adults have about how people should relate could just as easily be some exotic system of meaningless rituals. The mental schema for it just isn't there. Like you said, not "wired in."

It's staggering what goes on in those first few years and how far the impact stretches.

PeWee said...

It really does boggle the mind how one human being cannot relate to the feelings of others, cannot grasp right/wrong, etc... Ignorantly, I thought it was all just part of "being human": you "came" with empathy and the ability to love those who cared for you.

I'm really sad it's not true for all children everywhere!

Reality bites!

Lisa said...

Gee...I have no idea what you could possibly be talking about (lol). I have a 14 yo son who I am convinced is wired to be completely flat emotionally. Well, let me clarify, he's flat emotionally to other people. He can throw a temper tantrum as well, if not better, than any 2 yo I've ever seen - this is NOT an exaggeration, my 4 yo has grown out of the temper tantrums, the 14 yo has not. When its all about HIM, he is very emotional and believe me, it's always about him. I realize that the only good days our family has is when he decides he's okay with that. If he's not, well, everyone is going to be miserable, he'll be sure of that. I don't think he gets a kick out of tormenting us, it's just what he does and that's very scary.

I find that my special needs kids just soak in the worst of the worst behavior they witness. There can be 20 kids behaving beautifully and 1 not, they will always emulate the behavior of the one child they see behaving badly - ALWAYS. Do they think that one kid is having all the fun? I am getting very, very tired of the poor choices my kids are making. There seems to be no end in sight.

DJ Dual Core said...


With my kids it has to do with attention and or control. The one kid who is behaving badly is imitated because s/he is getting attention and or has control of someone or something.

With my kids anyway, there is no such thing as too much attention or too much control.

Nobody said...

Absolutely. Attention and control are what makes their world go round.