Are You Punishing or Rewarding?

There has probably never been a parent who chooses to punish their kid with ice cream and screen time. Common sense says that it’s a reward and not a punishment.

Punishment that’s perceived as a reward doesn’t change behaviors, send a message, or achieve anything good. It has to fit the action, inaction, behavior, severity, your anger or disappointment level, and it has to fit the person. It should fit their primary Color because one persons’ punishment is another persons’ reward.

The character of Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory is Green/Gold. In one of the episodes Penny suggested to his girlfriend Amy that she should give him the silent treatment to ‘teach him a lesson.’ Amy quickly nixed that idea: I tried that once. He said it was the most magical eight hours…

When you give a Blue girl a time-out away from her friends, that five minutes will feel like hours to her. But when you do that with a Green boy and send him to his room, the goal of punishment is actually a reward: My toys, games and books with the door closed and peace and quiet? NICE! Would all day be OK?

In a relationship, if your Blue feelings are hurt, or your Orange is ticked off, you’re likely to want to punish your partner with the silent treatment. After all: Do onto others, right? Wrong. That’s a punishment for your Color, not for others! If your partner is Gold, they’ll just keep working their to-do list – and now it’s uninterrupted – NICE! If it’s a Green, they’ll wander off to the garage or basement to do whatever… and wonder why they’re being rewarded with extra Green alone-time.

As I tell every school PD day seminar: You can’t teach them if you can’t reach them. Our four Colors have very different motivators, ways we learn, and a radically different view of punishments and rewards. To have some different results, you have to do some different actions.