Monday, August 25, 2014


We are wired to appreciate rewards. To need rewards. To give rewards. We are inherently motivated by rewards. We pretty much do most things for rewards. I think that no act, including the kindest of the acts, is ever self-less and is a form of self-reward. We tend to slow down in the absence of rewards. How many of us can go on unfazed in the absence of rewards? And for how long?

It is absolutely ridiculous the number of times I say good job to Sammy and Rehan at the tiniest of the things. I will not start calling those things out to avoid further detailed embarrassment. But I like the approach that their teachers at day care take. They don’t say good job to kids for performing the most basic of the functions. Functions that they are expected to perform at their skill level. I understand the value of rewards in providing positive reaffirmation to kids. In fact everyone needs it. It builds confidence and faith in oneself and I am all for it. But at what point do we stop and let an action be self-fulfilling? Independent of any reward. To be honest, my language with kids is so intertwined with reward that I may find it next to impossible to interact otherwise. I am not against rewards by any means. I just question my tendency to need rewards for every single thing I ever do.     

Just the other day, Siddharth was on a flight sitting in one of the front most seats. An air hostess came and asked if he would be willing to take a seat at the back of the plane because a grandma wants to sit close to her grand-child. Siddharth did not even think for half a second before jumping up from his seat and saying “of course’. What shocked him was that the air-hostess came up to Siddharth and gave him a gift voucher for showing kind behavior on the flight. While Siddharth isn’t one to deny an airline gift voucher, he was slightly upset to see that an act as basic as letting a kid sit with her\his grandma was considered reward worthy, which means, it was not considered the most natural thing to do. This is something he would expect anyone to do without giving it a second thought. I know that Siddharth has a certain utopian concept of how people should be – they should be who they are, without being apologetic, not changing yourself to suit other’s expectations, not changing your behavior (either to good or bad) because someone says\thinks a certain way about you. But in this particular instance, I am with him. Certain causes are too basic to be rewarded.

I will try really, very, hard to not say ‘good job’ to kids every time they do something nice. It is going to take all of me to do something like this. It does not come to me naturally. In fact it is hard for me to stop those words from coming out of my mouth. But that’s the plan. To let kids get motivated intrinsically rather than by my ‘good job’ every time they take a step. I want to let them take a few steps when they know they will not be rewarded. When they know no one is watching. I am really hoping they will get to that point someday. I am also hoping that I am just being paranoid in thinking that my kids are overly dependent on these explicitly stated rewards. Except, I think they are.

Again, I have nothing against rewards. I think rewards are great. Clearly. I reward all the time. The point is, these rewards sometimes take away from the core of the act. And I feel that absence of rewards is sometimes necessary to maintain the integrity of the action. If it makes any sense. But I want to be able to draw a line between positive reaffirmation versus constant praise of every single thing.

So here is to me trying. As many takes as it takes. As long as it takes.

My Positivity

A beautiful weekend spent sleeping, beaching, eating, sort-of-biking with friends! Nothing replaces beauty that a good company brings!

No comments: