As a father, the topics of how much incentives matter and how people respond to incentives will forever whirl in the back of my mind. I want a lot for my son, and I want to prepare him for the real world through education, but how do I foster a love of education in him? How do I encourage him to do things of value for himself?
Many parents use incentives, by way of restrictions, to push their children into sports or the arts, but are often faced with the harsh reality that their efforts did more harm than good. This is especially true here in America where children are indoctrinated with a value for individual freedoms at an early age. Any ‘well intended’ restrictions parents set on their children’s lives are perceived as limitations on inalienable freedoms and have foreseen and unforeseen side effects such as a growing resentment for parents, undesirable ‘black-market’ behavior and activities, and a dispassionate outlook on life.
So how do we influence children to do what we want them to do? I don’t know which sort of incentives are the ‘right’ kinds. I just think we often forget how subjective our own opinions are when determining what is right for our children, and that the very act undermines the fact that they, like ourselves, are imaginative, clever, and “constantly seeking to improve their lives in light of new conditions” (Whitman, 2007, ‘Slavery, Snakes, and Switching’).