Rewards and punishments, or consequences, are a reality of human existence. They are not an invention of those people who believe in a “judgemental God.” That’s nonsense.
IF I eat too much, I will gain weight and possibly be unhealthy. If I don’t eat enough, I will lose weight and possibly be unhealthy.
If I base my eating according to my feelings of what is “right and wrong,”, I would eat without restraint, but because I understand the rewards and consequences of balanced eating, I try to eat moderately (and sadly, I often choose to overeat, and therefore I show the consequences of these choices in my body).
I I disobey laws, I risk arrest, fines, imprisonment, and loss of reputation. If I obey laws, I will probably live in peace and freedom.
I I hit someone, they may hit me back. If I don’t hit someone, they may still hit me, but chances are good that I will walk around unscathed.
If I don’t go to work, I will not receive a paycheck. If I go to work, I will receive a paycheck. If I go to work and don’t receive a paycheck, I will not go to work. Perhaps some of you would continue working without a paycheck, but I would look for a job that rewards me with a paycheck. Good feelings don’t pay bills!
If I am baptized, I am a Christian with a hope of heaven. If I refuse baptism, I am at very real risk of spending eternity in hell.
Children need to learn that all of their actions have consequences, either good or bad. Using rewards and consequences in their rearing teaches them this reality. The older the child gets, the more necessary it becomes to explain the “whys” of the consequences; e.g., if they hit their brother with a wooden block, brother will cry and possibly have to take a trip to the emergency room if the hit was hard, and the hitter will be punished.
But when children are tiny, they do not have the reasoning capacity to understand or reason. It’s fine to explain why they are receiving a reward or a punishment ("Mommy smiles when you share your toys! or “Mommy can’t hear you when you use your whining voice.”).
But the consequence will happen whether or not the child understands. That’s reality!
There are a lot of unhealthy people who truly don’t understand how their own actions contribute to their poor health. There are a lot of people who wrecked their car and have no understanding of the physics involved in the accident, or the mechanical damage to their vehicle.
Understanding doesn’t affect reality–actions have consequences whether or not we understand them. Kids need to learn this, or they will not be able to function as adults.
I think sometimes parents don’t recognize that their little tiny children are growing every minute and will one day become adults. I think some parents think their children will be little forever, and they fail to prepare their children for being an adult.