Is the prevailing reward and punishment style of raising children beneficial for them and for society in the long term? In a recent article by Larken Rose titled “Raising Human Livestock” he writes the following:
If you happen to command your children to behave properly, after having used reward and punishment to train them to obey you, you still didn’t teach them to be good; you taught them to be obedient. If they didn’t actually acquire a sound moral code—which coercively controlling them does not give them—then once you are not there to punish them for what they do, what would their motivation be to behave “properly”? If you taught them to behave a certain way in order to avoid punishment, then the moment there is no longer a threat of punishment, why would they keep behaving that way? And if at some point they find themselves under the control of some different supposed “authority,” and it commands them to do bad things, what do you think they will do?
Back to the point this article started on, if you were spanked as a child, and you grew up to become a cop, or a soldier, or a tax collector or other government bureaucrat, or even just a proud “law-abiding taxpayer,” then no, you didn’t turn out okay. You turned out to be human livestock serving a malicious, parasitic, violent ruling class. And the worst thing you can do is pass that on to the next generation. If you teach your children to respect and obey “authority,” you are training them to be amoral, unthinking, compliant subjects of whatever thug, gang, crook, tyrant or ruling class they happen to latch onto as their new “authority,” after you no longer control them. You’re not helping your children, you’re not helping yourself, you’re not helping humanity. Stop it.
I completely agree with Larken; like I wrote in my post “The All Seeing Eye”:
If we have to rely on laws and the fear of punishment in order to do good, then we are a sorry lot indeed. We have to build our own understanding of why it’s better to do good (wisdom), so that eventually we’ll make the best choices ourselves. It’s a longer path towards enlightenment but a wiser one to take for the long term.
Reward and punishment only teaches children to become obedient drones who will acquire a fear for whatever they perceive to be “authority” for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t help them to develop a natural, healthy and rational sense of morality via self-regulation, and doesn’t encourage them to become independent and to think for themselves.
This is what creates all those people in society who commit all kinds of atrocities against their fellow human beings while claiming that they are “just doing their job” or “just following orders.” The famous Milgram experiment comes to mind:
The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. They measured the willingness of study participants, men from a diverse range of occupations with varying levels of education, to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience; the experiment found, unexpectedly, that a very high proportion of people were prepared to obey, albeit unwillingly, even if apparently causing serious injury and distress. Milgram first described his research in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.
The experiments began in July 1961, in the basement of Linsly-Chittenden Hall at Yale University, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular question at that particular time: “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?” The experiments have been repeated many times in the following years with consistent results within differing societies, although not with the same percentages around the globe.
It’s no surprise that this experiment has consistent results around the globe, because the current anti-social system that we live in — better known as Statism — is present everywhere around the globe, and it encourages parents to train their children to become “well behaved” mindless drones — obedient slaves for the masters who are in charge, often behind the scenes. Blind obedience to “authority” is taught to be a virtue, and as a result people will often even be proud to be obedient slaves.
Even religion trains children from early childhood to obey “authority” and to fear the consequences if they don’t. In fact, like I explain in my post “Yahweh the Barbarian,” religion also teaches that as long as you’re committing all kinds of atrocities while obeying commands from “authority” you’re doing something good, you can be proud of it, and can even expect rewards in the future.
If we truly love our children, we have to start respecting their right to life in the broadest sense possible. Parents shouldn’t view their children as their property, commanding and treating them as they see fit, because children are also sovereign human beings. Instead parents should function more as teachers or guides who help their children along the way with their development as they grow up. They should allow plenty of room for children to develop a natural sense of morality, able to discern between vice and virtue, based on self-regulation. It often involves trial and error, but that’s how we learn best in life; we learn best and gain wisdom from experience, not from blind obedience.