Tough Being a Parent

‘Command and control’ parenting throught the use of extrinsic motivation (sticks and carrots) is explored in this editorial debate from today’s New York Times;

New York Times – Room for Debate – Should You Bribe Your Kids?

Whilst it’s quite a light-hearted article and somewhat amusing I was left with two thoughts that meant i wasn’t wholly comfortable with the viewpoint of either of the writers.

Firstly, the article carries no acknowledgement of the needs, clearly identified through research with both children and adults, for intrinsic motivation to drive success in life. If every child is growing up with ‘bribing’ parents, should we be surprised if we finish up with an adult population that looks for instant and immediate material gratification as a necessary quid pro quo for every piece of effort extended? Whilst, as one of the writers acknowledges, that might solve her short term issues and give her an easier life, is she short changing her children by failing to invest adequate effort in the long term task of developing internal motivation to do what is right and necessary because one can make the mental connections between ‘doing what it takes now’ and ‘having what i want later’?

My second concern is that if parents are engaging in ‘mass bribery’ to weather the daily challenges of parenting – where does that leave the other people who play an important part in the lives of those children – the educators? If a child is in the habit of linking agreement to do something with some form of immediate gratification in the form of a bribe, then how are educators supposed to effectively fulfil their roles? They don’t necessarily have a pool of resources to keep handing out to children in return for them simply doing what they’re supposed to do – or worse, for not making our lives too difficult!

So, what do you think? Am I being too idealistic? Do you feel that bribing is an OK short-term fix for an easy life that doesn’t really do any harm? I’m really keen to hear people’s views on this. I may have mine, but after reading this article i fear i might be in a small (and dwindling) minority!

Younger Learners

The weight of evidence now in the public domain about brain and mental development should be more than enough to put to bed once and for all debates about ‘academics’ and kindergarten children. There is now enough that we know that tells us that to push reading, writing and other such skills early is to take enormous risks with children who may not yet have the neural network ready and in place to be ready for this kind of learning.

As early years education has turned away from ‘syllabus’ and bodies of content to be taught/ learned (x number of vegetable names, y number of colour names, z number of fruit names etc.) it has inevitably brought more and more questions – ‘Well, if not for that stuff, then what is the purpose of early years education?’

This is a relatively short piece written by a practicing early years teacher in the US that nicely gives her perspective on the aims and objectives of her early years classroom;

I found the teacher’s perspective refreshing, realistic and rooted in complete faith and belief in each child’s ability to acquire some level of competence in these key skills, given the right climate, atmosphere and activities to engage in.

I also couldn’t help noticing the coincidental strong correlation between her four listed skills for development and our own school’s four declared values:

Independence – learning is a lifelong process
Collaboration – Diversity
Ownership – Character forms the basis of a fulfilled life
Persistence – Self-determination/ Success Lies in the individual’s own hands

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