An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Posts Tagged ‘intrinsic motivation’

Are children always punished by rewards?

In parenting on January 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

Time to confess – I have an issue, like many parents, with getting my 5 year old daughter to eat properly. As parents we’re concerned she’s under weight. She has always been a poor eater taking very long to finish even half her plate and is very specific about what she eats. She doesn’t like milk with cereal for example nor does she like ketchup with chips! So this Christmas, we decided to experiment with points and charts. (magnetic princess chart available from Mothercare). She was in charge of giving herself 4 points a day for having breakfast, lunch, dinner and milk before bedtime. We didn’t insist she finishes her plate so long as we felt she ate her tummy’s full. At the end of the week she gets a reward which was a surprise she keenly looked forward to. (I took her to WH Smith to choose something. She chose Cinderella books) I also verbally rewarded her with expressions such as ‘mashallah’ (God has willed it) when she would finish eating. Outcome? Well, I must say her eating took structure and she looked forward to rewarding herself. I don’t intend to continue this point system in the long term but it has made me think about how parents can cultivate intrinsic motivation and how best to facilitate the journey from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation if one decides to take that route? Alfie Kohn raises the point of praising children verbally or rewarding them for doing good works can create in them an unhealthy dependance for approval.

In October 2011, I was fortunate to attend a spiritual retreat in Turkey. In a sohbet (spiritual discourse) between two outstanding spiritual teachers of our time, Kabir Dede and Shiekha Nur, it was mentioned how students (adults) often have a need for approval, sometimes unconscious, which the teacher will not give as it reinforces that aspect of theĀ  lower nafs (ego). The teacher will however give love to the soul of his/her student.

Coming to think of it, I know many friends who would often do something clever or wise and expect praise in return. In a few cases their need for approval is self confessed. May be I seek it to some degree too? Having gone through an education system, unlike Shakespeare or Tagore, which uses quantitative labels to differentiate and later becoming a teacher in one, I certainly see Alfie Kohns point. The best of students are intrinsically motivated in the subject, even though some teachers teach to the test because of pressures they themselves are under to produce good results. However, this begs the question, can extrinsic motivation with its structure and a rewards create space for intrinsic motivation to grow?