Noble Deeds

Earlier this week I bought a packet of lollies and announced that I would be handing them out for the performance of noble deeds. Luckily my children resemble rather poorly trained performing seals in many ways, and will do anything for lollies. My original reason for attempting this barefaced bribery was Posy's perceived need to have me standing absolutely right next to her every. single. time she went to the toilet. This is one child who feels the need to have an audience for everything she does in life. And if I did not hurry along and utter appropriate noises of admiration and encouragement she would stand and scream and scream until I complied. Obviously, something had to be done. And, as so often when faced with a child's behavioural dilemma I turned to bribery, thinly disguised as a random virtue.

I declared that when one is four, going to the toilet all by one's self is absolutely a noble virtue, and that when one is eight, cleaning up one's room all by one's self, also very noble. The twelve year old proved her virtue by finishing off a pesky piece of writing she was getting sick of, turning a Greek myth into a play. Further virtue will be demonstrated via the editing and final copy process. And me? My noble deed this week was cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floor. Extraordinary.

I find that though the 'spoonful of sugar' principle seems rather disturbingly Pavlovian to add to the modern, enlightened parenting toolkit, it just works. Sometimes, when there is medicine to be got down, we need something just a bit more enticing, and a bit more concrete than moral satisfaction to help us along to our goals (especially when they are my goals, and nothing that the children would find intrinsically rewarding). And, thanks to my mother, I have found a far more satisfying way to label bribery - extrinsic motivation - in other words, lollies.


Anonymous said…
Yes I have always wondered about that.
What is the difference between positive reinforcement and bribery?
Jo said…
I guess bribery comes before the deed and positive reinforcement after. They are both sneaky behavioural management techniques. I tend to favour bribery as the more direct method. Although I try to be up front about it, so as not to mess about with young minds so much. Hence the noble deeds. Both the 12 year old and the 8 year old realize that to be paid in lollies does not a noble deed make. And the 4 year old? Well, to hear her charging out of the toilet yelling, ‘I did a noble deed,’ makes my day to such an extent that a little messing with her mind seems entirely justified.
Jenny said…
You have a blog. welcome to the bloggy world.
Unknown said…
I love the way your mind works.

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