Employing the stick

Last time I talked about Mr14’s preference for the stick. Or, as educators call it, negative reinforcement. Before I go on, negative reinforcement isn’t making something bad happen to you, if you don’t do what you’re supposed to. Negative reinforcement is when something stops happening as a result of you doing what you’re supposed to. It’s like the seatbelt alarm in your car turning off when you plug your seatbelt in. It’s the reward of taking that annoying noise away, it’s not the application of punishment. In Mr14’s case—he delivers his flyers, we stop nagging.

He broke his arm skateboarding a couple of weeks ago, and he had less than 30% of his delivery workload left to do. Matt and I were prepared to help him get it done when he declared he was fit enough to do it himself. He could still carry his backpack with the flyers in it and could wedge a bundle in the sling. No problem! After he left, I couldn’t believe he hadn’t taken the last two bundles. It was probably the last 30 minutes of walking that he would have to do for this batch of work, and he’d decided to put that off. He may never appreciate the psychic burden I felt on his behalf!

When he got home from his morning delivery route, what do you think we did? Well, it was Matt, mostly. We had a discussion about delaying the last bits of work that still need doing, and how much better it would have felt if he was able to come home knowing that it was all done. So, we got the stick out—as per his stated preference—and made him finish the delivery.

The moral of this post is: you eat the frog, or it’ll keep croaking at you!

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