Motivating Children

My daughter has a “Spell Bee” competition (this is a competition on getting spellings right..) coming up in her school in Feb. Yesterday evening my wife complained to me that she was not preparing in spite of her repeated pestering and demanded that I interfere.

 I have always thought that my wife’s approach to getting things done was wrong (as with all women); she was too nagging. Whereas I am a strong believer of the fact that children should be motivated than forced upon. Well, here was my chance to prove the point; so I decided to have a  conversation with my daughter about this.

 “How has your preparation been going on for Spell Bee?” I asked

 She mumbled something in response; indicating that she wasn’t really enthusiastic about the conversation.

 “You will have a surprise gift from me if you get the first prize” I didn’t have a better choice for motivating her than this age-old proven tactic of offering something.

 Her eyes lit up briefly (OK, I was on the right track)

 “You will get a pair of nice Cinderella shoes in you win the first prize” (She has been behind me for that expensive shoes which I obviously thought was sheer waste of money)

  Now, I am waiting for to explode with joy, but…

  “Not needed papa”, her response was cold and for moment I went blank

 “Pink color shoes with golden laces..”, maybe I had not made it look attractive enough

  “Listen papa. If I win the “Spell Bee” contest, I will get a reward of 12 lakhs. So we will have lots of money, we can buy whatever we want…..May be we can also buy bigger home, more comfortable car… Or expensive clothes…”

  I had absolutely nothing to say; there was just a deep pain somewhere.

 Few months back when I had been to my ancestral home, I found a “pencil-case” in an abandoned cupboard. I had won it as a prize in a competition when I was in 3rd standard. It was something unearthly to me and meant everything in the world for quite sometime. When I saw it after several years, I was amused at the details that flooded my memory- the smell of the plastic, the pictures on it, the glossiness of the packet, how it feels and everything about it. I brought it with me back to Bangalore and it’s lying on my table. A strange joy fills my heart whenever I look at it.

 So much has changed in 30 years. I can understand generation gap, but can’t really understand it when our own children are generations away from us…

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