Parenting through Incentives

Off late, I have noticed a weird behavior on my behalf. It is with respect to my daughter who is 2.5 years old. I have noticed 3 dominant reactive patterns of behavior in me. When I am trying to get something done by my daughter or make her to do something I usually do one of the 3 following things.

  1. I try to scare her by saying that I will withhold love. For example, I would say – “Ok, you don’t seem to be interested in getting ready for school – so I am leaving you here and going to my work”
  2. I try to compare or show preference to something/someone else. For example, I would say – “Ok, if you don’t get ready soon I will take Tina (her toy) to school and you will be at home”
  3. I try to cajole her with incentives. For example, I would say – “Ok, you can watch one show or you can eat one yogurt squisher if you get ready for school”

I know all those sound very brutal, but I have been so implicitly using them that it took me a while to catch myself doing it. I spent some time trying to understand where this stems from. I mean, these are learned behaviors which I am modelling for my child and she is going to learn them too. If you think about it – the above list can be easily modified and applied to how we do our jobs. A employer would basically make you work by -

  1. Scare – If you don’t do your job – you will be fired.
  2. Compare – The others are doing a better job than you.
  3. Compensate – If you finish this in half the time, you will get a bonus.

These methods involved in getting someone from point A to point B – seems universal. Upon digging a little deeper I realized there already exists a Strategy of Persuasion in Indian philosophy called – Saama, Dana, Bheda, Danda. Saama is Persuasion, Dana is bribing, Bheda is threat, Danda is punishment. There are 3 more in that list – Maya – deceit, Upeksha – ignoring, Indrajala – jugglery.

Not matter what other connections I find – in the moment I don’t feel right about this. I don’t think parenting can be done with above techniques. It’s easy to follow those techniques but I think it’s creating a bad model for your child. Unfortunately I don’t know (at this moment) what my alternatives are. I mean I don’t have any other ways to get my daughter inspired to do something. I am in a dilemma.

2 thoughts on “Parenting through Incentives

  1. Hello there! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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