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.

My Worst Fears

Couple of days back I had a great realization. I realized what my greatest fears are (and have been). I mean I kinda knew some – but this time I came across the core of them. We all have our own dark corners and I nurtured mine with complete denial and ignorance. It was culmination of what I have been reading and that one amazing video watched the night before. Here is the book –

tamingA simple and amazing book which talks a lot about how internal chatter creates these seemingly uncontrollable gremlins that we carry around and believe the picture they paint as true. It’s really hard to identify them as they usually become part of our identity and severely limit our scope to catch them in action.

The books premise is – there is a core in everyone of us. The pure core and then there are these gremlins. We are kinda slaves to these gremlins (if you watched Cloud Atlas, there is a perfect example of it in that movie. The “Old Georgie” is nothing but a personification of Gremlin). Gremlins control us based on a pattern. They keep us anywhere except the present and now. Obsess about past, fear the future – that’s gremlin talking.

I think that book needs to be re-read and re-read till we can clearly identify and sort out those gremlins. So, here are my worst fears.

1. The Fear of not fitting in : This is so much part of me that it was really, really hard to dislocate and watch it. Basically not fitting in for me means anything from clothing, accent, pronunciation, culture, politics, knowledge, humor, sports, finances, habits and everything else. I am so dreaded by the fact that I won’t fit into something that I will totally avoid anything if I have a slightest hint of not fitting in well. It’s a painful truth and probably has kept me off of many astounding opportunities in my life but yeah that is my fear and it’s part of me.

2. The Fear of not being nice : This is nuts as well. I hate to be one with conflicts. I mean internal conflicts I seed and grow a many but outer conflicts I can’t take it. I am so scared of not turning out to be nice to other people that I will actually avoid them rather be angry at them or even show even a hint of discontent. Once again this fear is part of me and defines me.

3. The Fear of not being smart enough : This is the most craziest and the more I dwelled into it the more I realized that this is a double edge sword. I hate to be not smart enough among a peer group. If I am among a bunch of smart people, I strive really really hard to act and do smart things. But on the other hand if I come across someone who is not as smart as I think they are – then I drop, I completely drop and “act” stupid to accommodate me. So, I act more smart and more dumb when required to fit into the above two fears.

Remember the question here is NOT “why am I this way?” Doing that encourages another gremlin and you lost your battle already. It’s just to put the fears out. Pull out these grotesque creatures I have nurtured and created since my childhood and just watch them. Just be aware of them and do nothing. As simple as it sounds, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just writing this blog post makes me think that I am publicly shaming myself and making vulnerable to outside world.

The video I talked about which helped me to figure out the above process is by Alan Watts. Here it is.

I created this blog to actually post stuff that surfaces in my psyche and in the past there have been many books and stuff I read that have helped me to identify these. Here are some of them that come to mind.

I just came across this gem – The Blerch is nothing but a Gremlin –




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