Reward and punishment


It’s the easiest way for parents or nannies to give “reward” children to do something good. Candies, toys, clothes, or other “sweet” promises will instantly move them to do anything we want them to do. On the other side, punishment will avoid them from doing something danger or bad for them. No ipad, no dessert, will teach them to remember that “bad” action will remove their fun stuff and hopefully avoid them to repeat it.

Like any other “instant” things, reward and punishment has a long term consequences. Daniel pink in his book “Drive” explain it clearly, only internal motivation that strong enough to push people to reach the best in them. Carrot and stick will only push a little  and its strength will fade away and demand a greater reward or punishment. The worst part is it will make our children only will do good if there’s a present await. My older boy has developed such attitude, heit asks “if I do this, then what will I get?”. Arrrgggghhh. I’m so upset when I hear it!

Ok, so, internal motivation, how is it possible to grow it in your child? Are they understand the “real” reward of good action? It’s possible for short term effect like if you run on wet floor, you’ll fall. How about brush teeth, eat veggie, talk politely or be honest? Will you let tooth ache teach them to regularly brush their teeth?

It’s one of theory that is really hard to apply in daily life as a parent. As soon as l was faced in actual situation,  I was immediately switch to the carrot and stick. But then I realized it, I start to adjust again. This will make it worse, I became inconsistent and confuse my children.

As I contemplate, I become more aware, that I don’t have to control everything. Just pick the essential one, the one that will give a big different for my children life. Then those chosen one has to be built layer by layer. It needs lots of time, consistent rules and lots of patience.

The ideal is to create good behaviour as something fun to do, as its result itself will be the source of motivation. However, many of good behaviour are not fun to do. It will need an extra effort to persuade them to do it. That’s why choose the only the one that really matter.

My experience with Fabian was on practice his hand writing and reading. It’s so hard to push a gross motoric child to sit down still and only move his hand. I used to ask him to do 10 pages of worksheet that I made myself. I thought if I made the worksheet align with his interest, it will be easy to ask him to fill it. I later found out that my nanny promising him a chocolate puding or travelling to mal if he finished his worksheet.

He was 5,5yo at that time. In a another semester, he will enter elementary school, that demand his reading and writing as a basic skill for his learning. I really believe that reading and writing is an important thing and I decide to fight for it.

I look for other approaches. My next trial is with kumon. I taught, maybe my worksheet is too hard or too easy or just not appropriate with his development. I saw how interesting an english kumon worksheet looks like, colurful and lots of pictures. Kumon also used a daily exercise, which made children consistently do the exercise everyday.

It was easy for the first few weeks, as kumon start with level below his ability. As soon as it reach his limit, he started to refuse to do any exercise. He said it was too hard for him, and he was really did not like it. He tried every way to stop it, angry, crying out aloud, screaming, asking for my worksheet he used to have, anything. He even tried to fool me by doing only the first and last page.

Everyday is a battle for me and him, it is too much for me to handle. I’ve questioning myself is it the right way? should I give up and stop as it became more and more nasty. Luckily, my husband was strong enough to consistently follow the rules. He keep remind me that reading and writing is a basic skill that is very important and worth to fight for.

Now Fabian does his kumon voluntarily, without reward or punishment. No more fight or angry, as he start to proud on how good he is in math and raeding. I guess it just need time for the actual reward to show up and keep the wheel rotate.

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