Rarely there comes a book that is timely and makes me undergo a major mind shift in the way I look at things. I am very grateful to my friend Cat (we talk about our books, blogs and kids during our morning coffee breaks) for mentioning Drive to me. See, I was very busy lately thinking up a proper reward system to use at home. I did see many of them in the blog world, and the idea of motivating my child to do something that she doesn’t like to do was sort of appealing. Well, after just looking through Drive I was thinking, Phew, good thing I didn’t mess things up any more than I already did!
See, Daniel H. Pink makes a point that we are all born as I-people. We have intrinsic drive to learn, to experiment, to find our own purpose in life. Then somewhere along the way the system of carrots-and-sticks kicks in and messes up our I-drive. Rewards can take our intrinsic motivation away and turn play into work, stress us out and cool our fire instead of igniting it. We become X-people – compliant, insanely competitive or disengaged. By the way, majority of the book is actually about organizational approaches and motivating adults, but there is a chapter about how to help the kids to stay on I-path. I will not get into details of this chapter, but my husband and I already spent two evenings debating implications there. I might save our debates for another post.
I certainly see the truth of the statements in the book when I look at our own family. Small rewards worked well for potty training, but then it took us a year to wean Anna off getting an M&M every time she went potty. Some of my attempts to say if you do X, you can get Y backfired badly by daughter absolutely refusing to do X and saying that she doesn’t care about Y. Really, the best way to motivate my child and to teach her was always through games, and I got a lot more careful lately with not offering any prizes in the games. I noticed that she is rather competitive by nature and loves prizes. I would like her to appreciate the joy of participation more than the end result. We already have some “unlearning” to do here, but I feel that we didn’t get addicted to rewards yet, and Anna’s desire to learn on her own is going strong. I want to do my best to raise her an I-person even though I know from experience that they can be more challenging to deal with. After all, I am already married to one :)
What do you do at home to motivate your children to do what they dislike?