Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Do I Get?

I cannot remember if I ever asked my parents that! When we were growing up, there were rules and duties that we had to adhere to or were assigned and it had to be done. And nothing was ever promised in return. Nor did we expect it.

It seems to be a different game altogether now. Tell a child to do something and often enough , the child asks ‘so what do I get?’ If ever we had done that, I am sure it would have been a sound spanking.

But I guess one has to change, this is a world that moves on incentives, perks and rewards.

And therefore this column by Gouri Dange was interesting. It was about the distinction between bribing or offering incentives to a child. Ms Dange says there is a very thin line between the two and she cites an example from the adult world.

An organisation may offer an incentive for every job that is completed well and on time. And this serves as a motivation to work and finish by the given deadline. If the organisation, on completion of the project, sends a special box of sweets or takes the employees out for a meal that is a reward. If on the other hand, the employee will undertake the job only after a payment is made, then that would be a bribe.

And the difference essentially is that an incentive and reward is made when the work is completed whereas in the case of the bribe, the work does not get initiated unless the bribe is made.

And she therefore counsels that when bringing up a child, the incentive and reward can be encouraged, but bribing the child to study, eat, play or behave is like being held to ransom where nothing will move without the ‘bribe’. And she concludes that children of parents who bribe have never been taught the intrinsic value of doing something, whereas those who receive an incentive or reward realise that some jobs need to be done even if they are not fun, and that makes the parents happy to give him a reward.

But, I am not totally convinced that it is essential to give children incentives and rewards all the time. Especially when they are young. The corporate world is a different situation altogether. But a word of appreciation should serve as motivation enough for a child without him/her having to expect something for every job done. Some activities should never, in the first place, be considered a 'job' like behaving well, cleaning up their room, completing the homework. We grew up fine without these rewards and that is still the better way of bringing up children.


  1. So true! It is difficult to get out of it once started and it is tougher as even kids expect something for the effort they put in as they see their friends/ classmates being given incentives for such tasks.

    We grew up without any rewards ma :) We turned out OK!

  2. Incentives should not be given for each and every activity, it looses its value!
    Interesting read!

  3. I think the key lies in one of your comments. "If ever we had done that, I am sure it would have been a sound spanking."
    That fear was an effective instrument for our parents to help us grow into self managed individuals. That assumes a top-down authority centered relationship for atleast initial years of growing up. Today, that equation has changed. A growing acceptance of child rights and giving the child the space of an individual early on introduces a different challenge for today's parents. UK schools are taking this even further. They have removed the concept of 'teaching' to children. As that assumes a top down telling down relationship with the pupil. Children are now 'supported' and grow up in 'assisted' environments. Many find this kid-glove approach quite appalling and leads to parents losing their sense of control over kids. You get into early teens and the schools are run amock by kids who have assumed a grown up status with obvious emotional mismatch. They are more than a handful for teachers and parents. Making many here wonder if they have gone too soft.

    Coming to the rewards and this context it seems like the prevailing alternative to establish some mechanism for parents to establish control. It never works - yes - but if you were expecting your children to grow up to behave in ways similar to us, yes it does not. Do we as parents have the openness to embrace the outcome of using techniques unknown to us as children. That is the question. The struggle is because we still want for our kids in many ways to emulate our values and way of living. While we think they are growing up with more freedom than we did, how we try to preserve our moral/social references through them remains as a blind spot.

  4. I agree...there are somethings which must be done.incentive or no incentive and thats the mentality we need to have in our children..there are few things which may be optional but for basics we dont compromise


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