Rewards and Punishments

Welcome to my virtual therapy room!  I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this Vlog deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones.

Today I am talking about rewards and punishments.

This may seem an unusual topic for sex and relationships.  However, I was talking about authority transfer based relationships recently with a friend about rewards and punishments and when I thought more about it, the topic applies to other relationships as well.

Rewards are the things that feel good to us.

Punishments are the things that don’t feel good to us.  If you want to shape behaviour, using both can work extremely well. One thing I have noticed working with people over the years is that often others make assumptions about what their partner or child will find rewarding or punishing.  If you get this wrong, you will not get the effect you are looking for.

Often parents send children to their room as a punishment.  However, usually, in a child’s room is all their favourite things – laptop, tablet, phone, toys, stuffed toys, etc.  So being sent to their room is actually a reward as they are being given time to go play on their own.

I advise couples to discuss what they find rewarding and punishing.  For example, one partner might find time and undivided attention to be the best way of showing them how much they are loved.  Another might want lots of presents.      I also advise couples to look at their expectations at the same time.  Making agreements about expectations, rewards and punishments can strengthen a relationship.

In authority transfer based relationships, spelling out rewards and punishments is common.

Again it is important to make sure that a punishment is truly a punishment and a reward truly a reward.   It is useful too look at what type of system works best for your person.  Some people modify behaviour best as a result of being rewarded when they do well. Others work best when they are punished for doing wrong.

It is important to remember that we can only truly control ourselves so truly to modify someone else’s behaviour does not have guaranteed results.  It is also essential to have consent from the person whose behaviour you are seeking to modify.

If you are interested in the history of behaviour modification, have a look at Pavlov’s work and BF Skinner’s work.

Thanks for joining me this week for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.  Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at, follow me on twitter and instagram @drbisbey. For a free 30 minute strategy session with me, go to and head to the contact page and click the button that says Schedule Now!  I look forward to seeing you next week


Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment