22 September 2014, by Evelyn Tan
Many of us are probably not unfamiliar with the carrot and stick system— if you do something, you will get rewarded with something else. I have been brought up pretty much the same way too, if I scored an A in the finals, then daddy will bring me to Sentosa, etc.
Much has been said through parenting experts about the value of such a system that has seemingly worked wondrously for many parents, but to the detriment of children. When the carrot is removed, will the child still be motivated to do things? Especially when it involves things that are important to the development of a child’s character and value system, for example: learning for the love of it, being willing to share simply because it is something nice to do for others (and not for a bigger portion of the cake later, as promised by a parent), etc ,etc, etc….
That is why I am very careful not to use it for everything. But recently, I had a great opportunity to use it and even teach the children about appreciating privileges in life through it! It was all thanks to my number 3, Way!
With him having turned 5 in July, I was looking forward to him taking on more personal responsibilities, like making his bed and taking his dishes to the sink after meals. But Way obviously wasn’t ready for any of that even with my assistance. I could see in my mind how nice it would be, if the first three kids were up and running, taking care of their personal needs; so that by the time my helper’s two-year contract is over, I would only have Elliott to look after. There is more than a year to reach there for Way, but I know he is already ready for these responsibilities (and is just trying to push them off till later); so it was time we pull their iPad time out as the carrots!
It really did work! But only after much protest from the three of them. ‘Why was it that in the past we get to play with the iPad without needing to work for it and now we must?’ Thankfully, after explaining that the iPad was not something that all children were entitled to (and so a privilege) and we were hoping to use this to encourage them to earn more credits for themselves to exchange for MORE playing time (that was the real incentive to change!), they were willing to play along and thus far we have had 2 weeks of success!
It was also after this incident that I realized that as parents we naturally give freely and willingly. Like in the case, Way was reluctant to do things for himself because my help was freely available to him anytime he needed it, so there was no motivation for him to move! But when the carrots were dangled in front of him, not only was there impetus to ‘work ‘, he also gained an appreciation that things were not always given.
So, as with all things, there ought to be a balance. We don’t want to go the extreme to get our children to ‘earn’ all that they want in life, neither do we want them to think they deserve all that they have in life (just because we love them doesn’t mean we owe them all they want!). It’s not always easy to know when to reserve something as a privilege and when to give it out, simply because they are our kids and we love them. But hey, who says parenting is easy? But therein lies the challenge…….and the fun!