12 May 2009

Little rewards

It so pleases me to hear Ella say 'thankyou' spontaneously to other people now.

It's quite ridiculous that I should feel so pleased by it. Objectively, the success rate of my strategy is appalling by all standards. I must have repeated the "say thankyou" phrase to her about 2000 times since she started talking 3 years ago. The first 2 years I probably would not have observed any result at all. If an abominable success rate like that were to happen in a different situation, I'd be declared insane for sticking to this. It definitely makes me seem obsessive. After about 2 years I started seeing a result probably after every 20 times of prompting and that success rate has since been hardly noticeably increasing.

In contrast, the "say please" success rate was significantly higher, faster because it enabled me to use a more effective strategy. For the 'thankyou'-sayer there is no direct reward of note. A smile in return at most. At least 'please' you say before you get something. And if the giver is a parent, they may very well decide not to give you this something at all until you say that magic word. If they are mean, they won't even prompt you. They will at most mumble something like "hm, interesting" when you ask for something and ignore you until you've managed to figure out that they won't react until you add the word 'please' to your request.

More effective indeed. I hardly ever have to prompt Ella to say 'please' anymore. Which pleases me too - pardon the pun. But then again the 'thankyou' is more of a victory just because of the absence of a direct reward and it only making sense in the context of cultural rules and traditions. A very abstract and complex principle for a 4yo to grasp. Yet therein lies the basis of understanding one's culture and the need to show consideration to others and one's heritage by following social conventions and traditions that have a history and a meaning that originated generations ago.

Fascinating topic! Definitely more interesting writing about it than repeating "say thankyou" 2000 times.

1 comment:

jeanie said...

lol I remember I thought there was definitely a market for a recorder for phrases mothers use (over and over and over) to save us actually having to do the 2000 repetitions!

However, it is such a profoundly sweet sound, to hear our child say "thank you" without prompting and seeming to get the reason behind it.