Thursday, November 17, 2016

Unknown rewards

Jessica Lahey in her book, A Gift of Failure, tries to convince helicopter parents to wean off extrinsic rewards for behaviour. She asserts that this stunts the growth mindset in children where they do things because they are trying to figure things out rather than because they get rewarded for it. While I find it hard to adopt everything she says, I fully agree with her ideas.

She also talks about how, if it was necessary to reward, the rewards had to be inconsistent and rare enough not to form a pattern.

Fast forward to this upcoming weekend. Packrat and I are away this weekend. JED want to know if they can watch TV while we are away. As we are not around, we felt that it was only fair to put that decision into the ones who were caring for them in our absence. The twins were told that their TV privileges would only be made known to them during the weekend. How that decision was going to be made, was a secret. Not very democratic and transparent but child rearing rarely ever is.

These uncertainties brought about a sea change in their behaviour. Instead of the regular bickering and occasional-come-to-blows responses to each other, in the split second after the aforementioned pronouncement about television was made, they became helpful siblings who looked out for each other and were accommodating of each other.

When Muffin dropped his cup, Jordan scrambled to get it and Evan rushed to rinse it out as opposed to the usual "Muffin, why are you so clumsy?" accusation. The twins also wrote down a list of household duties that needed to be done and split it amongst themselves.

They even elected to read to Muffin before they fell asleep.

All this because they know that their TV privileges depended on their behaviour. But they weren't sure which aspects of their behaviour mattered the most. Being helpful, being caring and considerate, being nurturing, being neat... they didn't really know. So in face of the uncertainty, they did everything. We're not sure if it's sustainable but it's been interesting to see how they responded and we'll see what all the good intentions amount to by the time we get back.

At the same time, I'm leaving them a big series of books to hopefully distract themselves.

It's a lot less mess and less painful to clear up than leaving them Lego.


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