Is it Really Punishment?

I think we have too much of a focus on punishment in our society. We think saying no to anything is somehow a punishment. If we add a new rule with our kids, or we add extra work to staff, somehow it’s all seen as punishment even when it’s going to be helpful for everyone.

This thought came to me when we added some new rules for my step-son. One of the rules was that he be off all screens 1 hour before bed time. He was having difficulty sleeping and we decided to try this. A couple of weeks in, he was really helpful one night so my boyfriend thought he would allow him an extra 30 minutes on his cell phone. When he told me his decision I was annoyed. Instead of yelling at him I asked why? He looked shocked initially and couldn’t answer so I asked if he remembered why we have him off screens an hour before bed. His response was simply that he hadn’t thought about the why. I then asked “Do you see this removing him from screens an hour before bed as a punishment?” The look on his face answered my question.

The same idea came up when I was doing a coaching session with a supervisor. We discussed the need for a sheet for each shift that everyone could check off what they had gotten done. She told me that her staff have said in the past “Don’t do that to us!” I asked why they would feel that way. Apparently one of the other sections in their business had gone to this type of communication because of problems with people doing their shift duties and now this was seen as a punishment. I thought interesting, this is a tool to help you communicate between shifts, it would make the Passover from day to night and vice versa go a lot easier and everyone would get home sooner, but all they could see was that it looked like a punishment because another group had it put in to clear a problem they were having. 

So it left me wondering why we see things that could help us as punishment. My step son has trouble sleeping and then his behavior follows. He loses his gate keeper and does things he knows he shouldn’t then gets in trouble either at home or at school. Getting better sleep equals better behaviour, better relationships at home and at school so why does this seem like a punishment? In the case with the sheet to pass information, everyone goes home sooner, information is passed easier and you don’t have to remember everything from 2 shifts ago it’s all in the book. So many problems solved. I see it in other areas as well. We go on a diet and all we can think is what we aren’t allowed to eat on the diet, not how awesome we feel because we are eating foods that agree with us. Exercising raises endorphins and makes us feel better but we fight going to the gym or even just taking the stairs. I’m sure there are more but that will make a very long blog.

What if we chose to look at all the positives these things will bring instead? See how awesome my step son is doing now that he gets better sleep. See how easy it is to communicate with a sheet. Feel how much better we feel with certain foods out of our diet, and the energy we get from taking the stairs. A small shift like that in how you think about things makes all the difference. Making a choice that will help you is not a punishment. It’s a gift.