The crouching dog in the corner…a quick talk about punishment



Alright, two quick lessons I think need to be said:

1. Punishment, even at its best, does not create any new appropriate behavior.  Think about that for a second.  Its purpose is truly to teach NOT to do something.  Ever seen the over-punished or abused dog from the shelter.  He does nothing.  He sits and sometimes whines.  Everything has been punished.  The dog’s solution?  Don’t do anything.  No new behavior was created.  You CANNOT punish into appropriate behavior.  The textbooks call this “generalized suppression,” which simply means all behavior is suppressed, even those that had not been directly punished.  Ever seen that?  Sad.

2. What happens when you go over to that dog and quickly move towards him?  Growl and snap, right?  The textbooks call this “counter control,” behavior, often aggressive in nature, it occurs as a result of over-punishment. This has probably worked at keeping people and dogs away (we’ve all done this).   Kids hitting back, running away (from you or home), covertly breaking your favorite picture frame.  Some call it “passive aggressive.”  Also a side effect of punishment.

So, what happens when #1 and #2 occur together?  Only behavior that continues to become more and more aggressive because that is the only behavior that works anymore.  The “best” behavior is no behavior (hiding in the corner). Not good.

The lesson? 

To grow and improve behavior (rather than stunt it), attention must be paid to what behavior you want instead of just getting rid of the ones you don’t want.  I’m not getting into the “to spank or not to spank” question right now.  I’m simply asking you to think about this if and when you find yourself spanking or punishing the same behavior over and over (ahem, not working): what behavior did you want to see instead of what happened?  

Concentrate on that next time, and the next.

4 thoughts on “The crouching dog in the corner…a quick talk about punishment

  1. Pingback: The error of punishment often not talked about… – Behavior Management Consultants

  2. Pingback: THE ERROR OF PUNISHMENT OFTEN NOT TALKED ABOUT… – Behavior Management Consultants

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