Of rewards and behaviour

Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

An old hunchback was constantly teased and abused by the neighbourhood children. One day he told them that each will get Rs10 for teasing and abusing him for one hour every day. Kids were overjoyed and did the worst teasing and abusing possible. After a few days the old man informed that henceforth they would be getting Rs 5 per day for their job. Still, the kids were happy and did their job well. The next day the old man revised the rate to Rs 2 and children were clearly disappointed. Some dropped out. Finally, the next day the old man said that he was stopping the payments. The children stopped teasing and abusing.

Next time, before you offer your child a reward for a certain ‘good’ behaviour, think about this story:
Is discipline about identifying the behaviours that you want (clean room, less TV, being nice or being quiet, etc), then to reward the positive behaviour and punish the negative ones? In which case I can soon determine which rewards are worth the ‘good’ behaviour and go for it and which are not worth it and accept punishment for them (with resentment though).

Moreover, if a reward is connected to a certain behaviour it implies a hidden punishment. You see, not getting the reward is in itself a punishment.

The authors run Geniekids, a learning centre in Bangalore that works with children. To know more about their work visit www.geniekids.com.

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