I’m Not Raising Corporate America

boy frowning in suit
I’ve often heard parents rationalizing punishments and rewards by citing the real world. When the kids grow up, they’ll be in the real world. In the real world, they’ll have to get a job and then, they had better be prepared. Punishments and rewards are everywhere, in the real world.

This misses a key point. I’m not raising Corporate America. I’m raising my children. So, while some day they may find themselves in a corporate position faced with a choice to make, right now they are children living their lives. I don’t run my family by Corporate America’s values — to gain as much money (i.e., reward) as possible, often at the expense of others. And frankly, if my children are ever in such a position, I hope they look beyond the immediate reward and follow what they know in their hearts is the right thing to do — not because of someone else’s beliefs or because of some extrinsic reward — but because they are following what they believe.

In Corporate America, a person can make the choice to walk away and leave. They voluntarily choose to be in that position to earn a wage with whatever consequences go with their choices. Except in rare occasions, children do not have the choice to leave their parents and family of origins in order to find a more suitable position should they deem it necessary. Arbitrary punishments and rewards only exacerbate that parental power. If you want to compare punitive parenting with the work force, a more likely comparison would be with slavery. There is no chance of leaving besides running away with the hope of not being found. Most of us look for jobs that are rewarding. However, that reward generally isn’t the almighty dollar.

The most rewarding jobs are the ones where people are doing what they enjoy intrinsically. A few companies recognize this. Google is a prime example, despite its huge size. Employees at Google have a voice in matters. Recognizing that happy workers are more productive workers, Google strives to provide an enjoyable work environment rather than trying to control its employees. At the end of the day, however, work isn’t all there is to life, and most people would say that their relationships are what really matter to them. 

Rather than trying to control our children with punishments or rewards, I talk to them — like the people they are. Sure, some of the people in our family are smaller and younger, but these are still relationships. And the last time I checked, we are living in the real world.

Photo Credit: Justin Lowery

This post was previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

15 Responses to I’m Not Raising Corporate America

  1. Kate

    As a parent of a 5 year old who has ADHD, I use rewards as a way to encourage good behavior. I go above and beyond many other parents (strict diet, very very little TV, occupational and behavioral therapy, etc). Being a mother and my parenting is one of the few things I’m actually proud of in my life. I would hope you’re not so judgy with people you don’t know if you hear about a reward here or there- there may be more going on behind the scenes than you know. I much rather give out a reward for good behavior with MY son (and do the other things as well) and hope that we can avoid medication when he’s older. He’s rarely ‘punished’ because I rather talk about issues and he responds a lot better than way. Honestly, you kind of sound like someone who’s an active part of the ‘mommy wars.’

    • Sheila  

      There is a huge difference between giving a child a reward to help him do what is best for him or the family as a whole, and saying “I give kids punishments and rewards to prepare him for the Real World.” I think we should always remember our kids are people now; it isn’t all about preparing them for the future.

      Try to give the author the benefit of the doubt; I don’t think she was criticizing you.

  2. Destany Fenton

    I personally love this post. It can be hard to know what to say constructively when it feels like others put us down. The insinuation that children will be ill-equipped to handle the “real” world when they are raised in a consensual atmosphere is a pervasive mentality and one that many feel completely unreserved to bring up.
    I think Mandy explained her point of view quite well and was not intending to be judgmental – but that she often feels judged by others.

  3. Shannon

    I don’t feel like Mandy was doing anything other than tell her story, and reasons beside the decisions her family has made. Someone doing something different than you do does not mean they are judging you for your decisions.

  4. JW  

    I am so glad to hear this perspective. Rewards are rewards and their lesson is always to be who the person doling out rewards wants you to be. If that is what works for your family, then be happy wirh your decision that you are doing what you know is best. There is no reason to justify decisions because someone else made a different choice.

  5. Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children

    Kate – It sounds as though you are happy with your way of parenting and that you are working hard to do what you believe is best for your family. That’s great. However, this post isn’t about you. This post isn’t about any parents who choose to use punishments and rewards.

    Just as you, yourself, mentioned that you find your son does better when you speak with him about various situations rather than using punishment, many families have decided to follow a consensual living mindset, eschewing punishments and rewards for non-violent communication and working together to find solutions which work for everyone. This post is about those families.

    This post is about viewing the parent-child relationship as just that – a relationship.
    This post is about the fact that it is possible to raise children without punishments and rewards.
    This post is about the fact that corporations are not the way that consensually living families model their relationships.
    This post is about the fact that we don’t have to treat our children in a way that seems inauthentic to us just because they “might” experience something in the future.
    This post is about the use of intrinsic motivation in consensually living families.
    This post is about the naysayers who don’t believe it is possible to raise children without coercion, just as there are naysayers who say that it is not possible to raise children without hitting them.
    This post is about the fact that childhood is a “part of” life rather than merely “preparation for” life.
    This post is about consensually living as a valid method of living.

    This post is NOT about the “mommy wars”, society’s attempt to use the insecurity of mothers, caused by comparing their ideal or actual parenting with what society states their parenting should be like, in order to keep women in “their place.” If anything, this post is about the opposite – researching and thinking through one’s parenting and then being secure in following one’s beliefs and actions, regardless of what someone else tells you.

  6. Steph

    Extremely well said, Mandy! Thank you for writing this!

  7. amy

    OMG, its all about balance, sometimes a punishment needs to be handed out sometimes the ‘crime’ deals its own punishment. A kid runs with sissors, falls down; the punishment/consequence is the physical hurt, you explain the rule to the child and that rules have a reason behind them and your done. But sometimes kids do stuff and they see/hear/feel no consequence; say you find a stolen item in their room, a consequence must be dealt. Most likely it is appropriate for the child to return the item,and apologize this mostly depends on the age of the child, item stolen and from who: obviously the parent must decide, but a child must have guidance, geesh, its all about balance there is NO ONE answer for every situation! I am confused as to why there is so much confusion of rules/consequences/punishment. In the ‘real world’ there are rules and consequences if not followed, it is up to the parents to instill in their child an understanding of WHY we have these rules and WHAT happens when we don’t follow them. It is also a parent’s responsibilty to help a child understand intrinsic rewards, as well as, extrinsic rewards. There is no patent answer as to how to do this, every second of every child’s life is constantly changing bringing with it a new teachable moment at every turn

    • Heather

      Amy I think you have misunderstood what this article is trying to say. Yes it is saying that there is no real need for punishment in teaching children appropriate behaviour. You’re right – sometimes children do need to experience the natural consequences of their choices and that is enough. I think the author would agree with that and would not consider that to be a punishment. Having your child return a stolen item and apologise is completely appropriate. I think the author would agree with that too and would also not consider that to be a punishment. Children still learn to take responsibility for their behaviour. This article is not saying that children don’t need guidance – it’s saying that you can do that without punishments or rewards. Yes there are rules and consequences in the “real world”, but I want my son to follow rules/cooperate with my limits/boundaries because of my relationship with him, he trusts me to do what is best for him and he understands the reasons for them (safety and respect), not just to avoid a punishment or get a reward. I want him to be intrinsically motivated and to do the right thing because he can see the benefit for him – staying safe and having respectful relationships with others, not to be extrinsically motivated and to just follow the rules to either avoid something bad happening to him or have something good happen to him. Then he wouldn’t be thinking about how his behaviour affects others, only himself. If you re-read the article and really think about what it says, I think you will find you probably agree on more things than you realise.

  8. Valerie Kurjata

    really like your perspective, both in your original article, and your comment below explaining “what this is really about.” We need to be able to voice our opinions and perspectives, and agree to disagree if need be. We all have the freedom to choose how to raise our children, and teach them, according to our own family values. When our girls were young, and I needed to address certain behaviours – if our correction brought on more negative behaviour, we quickly stopped. But if it brought about positive behavior, then we knew we had done the right thing. We’re kind of like scientists, figuring out what works well for our children – to bring out the best in them. I’m very happy to say that we have very happy, content (even thru some very tough times), girls who know how to address conflict in their lives, and if they don’t know how then they know where to go for help. Kudos to all those parents who raise their kids according to their own values, and not the values and rules of the “experts.”

  9. Jennifer

    Absolutely love this. Thank you.

  10. Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children

    Natural consequences happen naturally, without any input from us. There are definitely times when we would like our children to learn about something, and we may need to step in and guide them. I’m not advocating that we not help our children navigate through life during their early years. As parents, it is our role to help them. However, punishments are not necessary in the learning process. In fact, studies show that punishment actually *impedes* the learning process. If you choose to use punishments in your family, that is your prerogative. However, this post is about the fact that not every family chooses to use punishments in their relationships. The absence of rewards and punishments is not going to impeded our children in the “real world.” The absence of loving parenting would. Parents who practice consensual living, which is *not* permissive parenting, do so with love and respect. They help their children navigate the world and learn about life in other ways.

  11. denise key

    we as parents are given children to raise. we have a responsibility to that child to teach them how to be a good person in this world that we live in. we also teach them at a young age actions equal consequences good or bad. a child of age 1to 5 can not make choices like an adult, what we teach them before the age of 5 is what they will use to make choices in life. some children learn with out time outs all you have to do is look at them and others just slam doors and tell you no.if this child is not taught how to control them selves when told no, they will bw short changed when they no longer have a parent to protect them. Iwwould prefer that my child learns from me how to act and react, to help them adjust when they leave home and do not have to learn the hard way. what ever way this is acomplished with out abuse is ok by me

    • kelly @kellynaturally  

      What is the problem with a child telling a parent no? Is a child’s no less valid than his yes?

      I’d prefer my child know how to express himself – even if it’s not what I wanted to hear – than to learn his voice is only valuable when it’s used to convey a message everyone’s happy with.

  12. Julie

    Rewards here and there are perfectly fine, for crying out loud. There is nothing wrong with giving children a taste of what many facets of life later on will present. Also hard work and wise choices do bring rewards of all kinds. There’s nothing wrong with making that fact apparent. Intrinsic rewards as well can be discussed and pointed out. That’s part of the close relationship that’s been building over the years. I’d like my kids to be prepared for all they will face in the workplace. My approach has been very successful do far. They are highly prized and valued employees in their early jobs while they are still in college. Also it’s nice to reward yourself after a hard or distasteful is completed 🙂 My kids like to see me being kind and treating myself here and there. Moderation in all things!