To Reward or Punish a Child? It’s All About the Brain!

Reward vs. Punishment | Parenting | Dr. Robert MelilloWhen a child has a brain imbalance, it means behavior is out of balance, too. Out-of-balance behavior can be displayed as temper tantrums, meltdowns, obstinacy and disobedience (right brain deficiency) or withdrawal, shyness, compulsivity, and oppressiveness (left brain deficiency). There is nothing abnormal about any of these behaviors if they are occurring at the appropriate time in brain development. They become abnormal only when they hang around too long and occur at the wrong age.

Regardless of whether the behavior is typical or not, many parents are faced with the question of whether to reward good behavior or punish bad behavior. The answer? It depends on the brain and what’s ultimately motivating the behavior.

Gaining Control of a Child’s Behavior

A child acts out in one of two ways: approach or avoidance. If the child makes the correct choice, the behavior should be rewarded so that he repeats the behavior. It reinforces the behavior. If the child makes the wrong choice, then the behavior should be punished in some way so the child doesn’t repeat the behavior. Reward is felt in the left hemisphere and punishment is felt in the right hemisphere. This is the key to the strategies you will use to try to maintain discipline and control your child’s behavior.

Left Brain Deficient = Positive Reinforcement

A child with a slower left brain is deficient in reward responsiveness and is over responsive to punishment. So, to help motivate a left brain deficient child, you must use reward activities.

The Left Brain Challenge: Use the positive “If you do {behavior}, you will be rewarded” approach.

Give you child a goal that he can achieve and reward him when he meets it. For example, make your child earn privileges like watching television or playing computer games or getting a new pair of sneakers. Punishment and negative reinforcement does not work on a child with a left brain deficiency. Rather, keep it positive and stimulate with hope.

Right Brain Deficient = Negative Reinforcement

The child with a weak or slower right brain is withdrawal deficient and over-responsive to reward. For the right brain deficient child, you use punishment or negative reinforcement.

The Right Brain Challenge: Use the negative “If you don’t {behavior}, you will get punished” approach.

To motivate a child with a right brain deficit, you must use negative reinforcement. This does not mean that you take away something that she has earned. This is not a good tactic. Rather, you use punishment as reinforcement. for example, the punishment might be no TV or no computer time. It’s really all about emphasis. Your focus is to stimulate with fear.

Behavioral Issues and Brain Balance

Regaining age appropriate behaviors and behavior management requires bringing the two hemispheres of the brain back in sync.

At our Brain Balance Achievement Centers, we address brain imbalances in children by stimulating the weak side of the brain through a series of motor, sensory and academic exercises. As a child’s brain neurology starts to respond to stimulation, behavior definitely does change, and what that behavior will be depends on where the deficits are, the severity of deficits, and the child’s age. Visit to learn more about behavioral disorders and The Brain Balance Program.