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.