I don’t know many kids that enjoy washing dishes, vacuuming, or doing laundry. Most parents get their kids to do these things by providing incentives, which can take many forms. Some parents give their kids an allowance, others threaten to take away privileges. There are also those kids for whom the desire to please their parents is a sufficient stimulus. But at the end of the day, the kids are doing a chore and their goal (as well as that of the parent) is to get the job done, not to enjoy the process or fall in love with it.
But what if we want to expose our kids to something we hope they will take a liking to? How should our process of providing motivation change, if at all? Do certain incentives signal to the kid that something must be a chore? For example, if I tell my kid, “You can watch a minute of cartoons for every minute you spend reading”, does that give her a sense that reading must not be fun? (They KNOW that watching cartoons is fun.)
On the other hand, reading (as well as many other interesting and ultimately rewarding pastimes) has a steep learning curve, and some encouragement is almost certainly needed at the beginning. Ideally, the end result would be a strong incentive in itself, such as finding out how a story ends or discovering the solution to a fun problem. However, depending on how hard the task is and on the kid, this may not be a sufficient motivator.
When pondering over such questions, one naturally starts to reminisce about personal experiences and recall stories told by friends. Growing up, I had a friend who was forced to read for 45 minutes each day before being allowed to watch any TV. Fortunately, she ended up falling in love with reading and as an adult is now one of the most voracious readers I know. On the other hand, I had a number of friends whose parents made them practice the piano or violin on a daily basis, and they grew up absolutely hating the instruments.
So how do we make sure that our incentives do not achieve the inverse effect from the intended one? Nothing happens in a single day and it’s probably a perpetual balancing act. How do you incentivize your kids? What works for you and what have you found to be counter-productive?