With the soaring cost of living and ideas that children are getting more and more expensive to bring up, the light at the end of the tunnel is that the stability and security that children need to pave the way forward to a positive outcome in life costs absolutely nothing! Whilst a healthy cash balance may provide opportunities and experiences, money per se, is not the fast track solution to ensuring that children achieve and succeed. For such achievements and success in all walks of life children need to facilitate the attributes of focus, motivation and determination within them. Helping children to develop these qualities is a matter that cannot be bought.
This is evident by the use of the carrot and stick mentality that has limited effect in the longer term. Through a child’s life they are exposed to many forms of reward and punishment that by many are accepted as the cultural norm for instilling behaviours that are deemed to be acceptable and those which are not. The carrot is used as positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour and the stick as a punishment to deter the undesirable and bad behaviour. Sadly though both, fall short in the longevity.
Rewards in particular are not only ineffective therefore, they are also counterproductive. Think about a child who is rewarded for doing something; the next time they are asked to repeat the task, the expectation is automatically in place to expect a reward for doing so. The reason they connect with doing that something is to receive. As a result the motivation for acting is reduced if not eliminated altogether because the motivation in the first place was of external origin. If, however, that motivation had come from an internal centre, or been intrinsic to the child, then the motivation would have led to renewed action time and time again. Intrinsic motivation is therefore essential in a child’s life if they are going to be motivated to act. Even the reward of praising children with statements of the adult’s emotions can link in with external motivators. For example, when you say to a child “Well done, I like that” they may well interpret that as “Well done, I like you” and therefore if the “Well done, I like that” isn’t there on an occasion they feel knocked back personally. Praise like “Well done, how did that feel for you?” said in a cheerful, upbeat manner with a smile, however, works as an intrinsic motivator allowing the child to acknowledge their achievement, to feel the sense that they’ve accomplished something and more importantly own their own behaviour.
Similarly, punishments, or the stick fail in the longer term for changing and eliminating undesirable behaviour. Punitive measures fail for many different reasons but critically because it wears down the relationship that a parent has with their child as well as losing effectiveness over the years as suitable punishments are harder to come by. It also raises emotions to a level that distracts from the salient messages that need to be taken from a situation at a given time, ie. the lessons that need to be learnt, and in many instances it destabilizes the balance of power particularly where that punishment resorts to violent methods.
Children need to learn to own their behaviour and they will only do this when they connect with the way they are behaving. They should not behave in a set way simply because the world wants them to, but because they want to as well. Over the course of their childhood leading them to an understanding of what is acceptable behaviour from a platform of love, respect and responsibility will help them learn to own their behaviour and then honour this in all aspects of their life. In terms of achieving and success then, once children have fostered such an amazing skill set they will be able to embrace the discipline of setting their own goals, steering their own course and evaluating their progress along the way. At that stage they will inspire themselves to maximise on each and every moment for
“The end of the rainbow is deep inside your own being. Have the inspiration to look within and optimise each moment enjoying the spectrum of life that is yours for the taking”