Great Lessons in Parenting – 3rd Lesson

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reward

rewardLesson 3 – The system of Reward and Punishment

This is similar to the ‘Good Girl, Bad Girl syndrome’. In this system also parents try to get kids to do something by attaching a reward to the act. On the other hand, they stop them from doing something with the threat of punishment. How these are different is that in the former the child is labeled good or bad to get them to do something, whereas in the later they lured with gifts to do something or threatened with consequences to discourage them from doing something. Either case is excessively harmful to their psychological growth. Minor disclaimer: things we’re going to describe below have worked with Aarohi in particular. This is not a statement on how to raise your kids. Please keep in mind that what works with Aarohi may or may not work on other kids. There are a lot of factors that have to be kept in mind when interacting with kids.

Either case is excessively harmful to their psychological growth.

Again, this system works wonders when dealing with kids. A lot of unwanted complications can be avoided by the promise of something desirable in lieu of obedience. Also, everybody knows that it is basic human nature to avoid getting involved in activities that might result in some sort of punishment. We’ve seen this approach taken by parents with small kids, right up to the ones with older kids. The kids are exposed to this system from a very early age and keep getting this treatment all throughout their dependent life. One of the most common uses of this system is to get the kids to finish their homework. Parents promise all sorts of rewards if their child finishes the homework, like watching a movie, eating ice-cream, reading comics, so on and so forth. If the kids score higher marks, then they are promised to receive a watch or a bike or a game console. So, now kids are only trying to study harder so as to get the reward and not because they want to learn something. On the flip side, kids are threatened with dire consequences if they fail to achieve good grades in school. So, now again, the kids are studying hard so as to avoid the punishment rather than gain knowledge. This is another approach we don’t take with Aarohi.

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kids are only trying to study harder so as to get the reward and not because they want to learn something.

As parents, how we approach this is, rather than attaching a reward or punishment to an activity, we try to make the activity itself entertaining for Aarohi. We also explain the benefits that she will reap as a result of the activity and not because we will reward her if she excels in it. After explaining all of this, if she still chooses not to do it, we just let it go and move on to other things. Let me assure you, there is no lack of activities to choose from, it just takes a lot more effort from the parent’s side. On the other hand, we don’t lay down any punishments as a choice for her, in case she is not able or does not want to finish her activity or achieve the goals for the same. If she doesn’t achieve something she set out to do, we let her know that we are there for her and all she needs to do, if she would like to, is – try again. Even after that if she doesn’t succeed we just move on to something else. This way what happens is that there is neither greed nor fear attached to anything she does. The singular motivation for her to do something is that she is interested in doing it. On the other hand, if she doesn’t want to do something, she is not forced to do it for fear of punishment. There is no punishment for creating a mess or playing in the sand or splashing water or scribbling on the walls. Similarly, there is no reward for completing assignments or eating green leafy vegetables or learning to cycle.

The singular motivation for her to do something is that she is interested in doing it.

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Just like her interest in painting, Aarohi also loves making beads. She has made a ton of those for her friends as well as her uncles, aunts, grandparents and us. Making beads is a very tedious playtime activity, but she loves making them so much that we never had to tempt her with rewards to encourage her to make them. Also, since it is very difficult to make, she doesn’t always manage to complete it in one go. We never threaten her with consequences in such a case. So, without any fear attached to the activity she doesn’t shy away from trying just cause she might get punished if she doesn’t finish. In our opinion, this is the secret of a happy child.

Making beads is a very tedious playtime activity, but she loves making them.

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