Monday, 18 January 2016

Basic Triage: deal with the victim's injuries first

More on anti-punishment in a pro-punish world...
We live in a punishment-happy world, where people's response to everything from one child grabbing a toy from another to serial rapists is some kind of revenge fantasy. Hit them back, abuse them back, get them back: tit for tat, at its finest.

This is not functional.

It is dysfunctional, but probably not how you think it is...

Basic triage of, say, a car accident with multiple injuries does not start with finding out who to blame and running them over with a bigger vehicle to 'teach' them that they made a mistake. First aid is given in order of the seriousness of the injury, not in order of who is the least to blame.
When this protocol is followed for other mistakes and injuries, a kind of miracle occurs... the perpetrator (whoever is to blame) can see clearly the result of their error without being distracted from what happened to defend themselves against an attack from an authority figure. Or, as a reader put it, in response to my last post:

YES. And adding extra to the natural reaction following a mistake means that the natural reaction is metaphorically (or literally) shouted over and the additional extra becomes the focus of the child's attention. Thereby muffling the natural learning reaction.

One instance where this was really clear to me was when our elder daughter locked the keys in the car, just as we were about to leave my grandparents' house to come home from a camping trip. She came into their house, her face white in horror, and cried as she blurted out what had happened. Her dad started shouting at her and I stopped him: 'she already clearly feels terrible, what are you shouting for? It won't get the keys out of the car...'
Punishment doesn't solve problems. Punishment doesn't 'teach' people to notice the results of their behaviour, or even to feel bad about what they did. Punishment shows people that the authority is not on their side, and will gleefully add to how bad they already feel about themselves and their actions.

Punishment teaches people to evade blame and to argue against the authority's assertion that their action was intentional or malicious, in order to avoid feeling worse than they already do about the mistake. Punishment takes people's minds off the results and focuses their attention on protecting themselves from an attack...

... exactly the opposite of 'teaching' them to take responsibility for their actions.

Focusing on the victim first, treating the injury and helping restore their sense of safety, gives the perpetrator an unobstructed view of the results of their action and space to think for themselves about what they really wanted to achieve. It helps them save face while also giving them time to take calm down and take in new information... the conditions necessary to learn anything.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Anti-Punishment in a Pro-Punish World long-tail from childrearing in a punishment-happy world is adults who believe that whenever they make a mistake, damage anything or get anything wrong, they must be punished: made to feel bad about what they’ve done.


Yes, that’s what I said: again.

You see, the natural result of doing something wrong, making a mistake, hurting others, doing damage or creating unnecessary costs is to feel bad. Even really little kids get upset when the item breaks, or the baby cries, the dog runs away. I am convinced that this is not something that needs to be ‘taught.’ The natural result of making mistakes or doing damage is self-recrimination, shame, guilt and a loss of self-esteem, and to know that one is capable of harming others (and stuff.) it is an article of faith among the pro-punishment that in order for people to ‘learn’ they must have some kind of personal harm applied: public censure, fines, thrashings, withdrawal of affection, restriction of privileges, dragging it up in every tangentially-related discussion to keep scraping the scab off to keep the wound perpetually at the top of the victim’s mind.

Perpetrator’s mind.

Hang on… this is one of the things I find to be problematic about the application of additional punishment: the scale.

Punishment can very rapidly go from ‘harming the perpetrator just enough to match the offense’ to ‘harming the perpetrator so much more than makes sense that the perpetrator is now the victim.’ It is a delicate balance that requires understanding of just how bad the perpetrator already feels, so the additional harm inflicted doesn’t tip the overall experience of the perpetrator into the victim category.

But, wait… if the perpetrator already feels bad, what is the purpose of additional punishment?

I honestly have absolutely no idea.