248 - The Problem of a Punitive System

Episode: 248

Episode Title: The Problem of a Punitive Syste

What’s wrong with a punitive system when it comes to boundaries and expectations? Let’s talk about it, coming up next on The Perna Syndicate.


Ep 248 show:

Welcome—you are now in The Perna Syndicate! As we talk about forging a connection with young people this week, we have to examine one very crucial aspect of our relationship with them. 


As parents, educators, and employers, we all work within a system with boundaries and expectations for behavior. What we need to ask ourselves, is if our system is punitive or payoff focused. 


A punitive system is focused on meting out consequences. The expectation is that young people will fail to meet the standard and so we’ve pre-emptively put together a set of consequences that they will experience when they do. There’s no “if” they’re going to transgress, it’s just “when.” 


This really sets young people up to fail, because, like all of us, they tend to meet the expectations that are placed on them. If we expect them to mess up, they have no motivation not to. Might as well do what the teacher thinks I’m already doing, right? 


Now, I’m not against consequences. In fact, I talked a few weeks ago about removing safety nets so young people can feel their branch creak and experience the results of their decisions. But what I am against is focusing so much on telling kids the consequences that we fail to lay out for them the rewards, the payoff if they do perform like they need to. 


The problem of a punitive system is that it creates the need for itself, by emphasizing all the ways that kids can go wrong and what happens when they do. 


We can do better—and tomorrow, we’ll talk about a payoff-focused system and how to create it. We’ll see you back tomorrow on The Perna Syndicate. 

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