Reward and Punishment: Not for Aspies

Those in charge of shaping young humans today have “rephrased” the old school idea of ‘obedience to authority’ as ‘proper socialization’ to make it sound less authoritarian, but changing the name does not change the goal. Obedience is (supposedly) instilled in children by use of a reward-punishment system (black-box theory) that does not work with an Asperger child, who feels no interest in pleasing an adult who is simply one human in a vast complex of living things and objects. The Asperger child will respond to an adult who speaks honestly and directly, but will not cozy up to an official spokesperson for the social hierarchy. Inverted messages, such as, “I care about you, (so please just sit down and shut up,”) are understood to be deceptive.

 I think Asperger children are more like cats than dogs.

I think Asperger children are more like cats than dogs.

This is not about necessary rules that ensure safety, such as quick response in emergency situations, or about practices that establish an orderly home or a school environment. It is about the reward and punishment system used in schools and by parents, which fails when the reward is withdrawn: the ‘value’ of the reward often must be escalated. The system is easily gamed by the ‘normal’ child who turns it into a form of black mail or uses it to abuse other children. We’ve all met these kids in line at the grocery store whining for treats, which Mom or Dad refuse, but then quickly supply. Only discipline that is internal will outlast external coercion and manipulation and provide a foundation for the child’s lifetime.

This is about straightforward communication between individuals regardless of age, social standing, wealth, privilege or gender.

In fact, an Asperger child is likely to “pull an inversion” on the demanding, bossy and unfeeling adult, becoming demanding, bossy and unfeeling in return, as an attempt to “point out” adult rudeness toward children. This makes “tyrannical” adults very angry.  






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