Friday, 8 January 2010

The Ill-Equipped Generation.

When I was a kid, we could earn some sweet-money digging snow off a neighbour's path or washing a car. My father hated washing his car and was happy to pay us to do it. We'd never think of expecting money for feeding the dog or changing the sandpaper in the (despicably vicious) budgie's cage. They were our pets too, and if we wanted to keep them, we had to take responsibility for them.

Nor would we have imagined that we could be paid for being polite and demonstrating good manners. In those days, adults had a cheaper option available which was applied if we were bad-mannered or rude. It worked exceptionally well.

Discipline is no longer permitted. So parents are turning instead to bribery. Kids can now earn money for far more than washing the car or clearing snow or leaves. They expect to be paid for being nice to people.

That is not a good idea. Children operate a simple, logical approach to the world. Touch something hot, don't touch it again. Get a reward for doing something, do it again. The trouble comes when they associate things like good manners with a reward. If you stop the reward at any point, they see no reason to continue. It's a deal, of sorts. A market bargain. If companies stopped paying me for research I'd stop doing it. If I did something for a company and they didn't pay up, I wouldn't accept any further work instructions from them.

So it is with bribing children to be good. There is no punishment for behaving like mini-anarchists and doing what the hell they please, so the only reason they have to not do as they please is that someone is paying them to follow the rules.

Stop paying, and they stop taking instructions. That was the deal so if the money stops, the deal's off.

The market is ingrained in biology. Even chimps have been shown to make deals and to get frustrated if they feel cheated. It's not evil. It's normal. People get on with one another by coming to mutually agreeable arrangements. All government needs do is make sure they behave themselves in the process, and provide a legal system so people can get redress when shafted and con-men can be punished.

Note the difference. Children are now being brought up to believe they can do just as they please. If adults want them to behave according to a set of rules, they have to pay them. Yet when these children become adults they will find that it works the other way round. There's no reward for following the rules. Instead there are punishments for not following the rules.

So this 'no punishment for bad, reward for good' approach to child rearing is the exact opposite of what the child needs to know about the adult world. Both involve deals between individuals but in the child's world, there is no punishment for breaking the deal other than a temporary withdrawal of sweet money.

In the adult world, punishment can involve losing your job, your home, your freedom.

It's going to come as something of a shock.


UPDATE: That was quick.

8 comments:

Rob F said...

Possibly an even bigger tragedy would be that a lot of them wouldn't even understand that losing their job or home had been THEIR fault.

They'd think that deserved all that, just by being them. How dare society take it all away from them; it's so unfair!!

Mark Wadsworth said...

'no punishment for bad, reward for good'

As a general rule, it is cheaper to punish bad behaviour and not to reward good behaviour, which is part of my wider manifesto and applies to a lot of other things as well.

AntiCitizenOne said...

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17732-carrots-are-better-than-sticks.html

Stewart Cowan said...

Hi LI,

I think the game is to make children as dysfunctional as possible so that they require state intervention early and possibly for the rest of their lives, via social work depts, mental health, 'sexual health', criminal justice system, benefits system...

This new way of doing things is certainly a good way of achieving this end. Coincidence?

Stewart Cowan said...

...and the bad behaviour is given fancy names so that mind-altering, anti-psychotic drugs like Ritalin can be given in the absence of discipline.

Doctors under fire as an alarming numbers of children are given drugs to combat depression and ADHD

Chris said...

What was that line in "Starship Troopers" about never bothering to housetrain a puppy, then one day - when the dog is full-grown - suddenly pulling out a gun and shooting it for doing only what it knows.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

cornyborny said...

This very subject drifted unbidden into my mind last night. Spooky.

I'm not at all sure that a move back towards tough/physical discipline at this point is the Good Thing many expect it to be. The problem is that, in the time since physical discipline was last around, the underlying culture of education, and the general kid - adult relationship, have been fundamentally fucked up. My worry is that, by tweaking one thing without fixing the core problems, we'll just end up with the worst of all worlds: the same bullshit Marxist-infused environment we have now, and the same arse-about-face State-decreed curriculum, but with the state agents (teachers) allowed to use force against dissenters.

TDK said...

Both involve deals between individuals but in the child's world, there is no punishment for breaking the deal other than a temporary withdrawal of sweet money.

You don't understand the Socialist mindset. In a "perfect" society you are not paid based upon a contract, you are paid what the collective deems you need. Conversely, you are expected to work according to your ability, not because you are going to get paid. They may call it a wage but the better name is sweet money.

If the collective deems it convenient, the sweet money will be reduced or raised.

I therefore suggest that the child is being prepared for the adult world (of tomorrow). Either that or Socialism is a child's fairy tale.

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