Sunday, August 8, 2010

Consequences - Social or economic norms

There was an interesting study done on a day care who were struggling with the issue of late pickups. In order to deal with the situation the day care started charging ' fines' for late pickups. This could be explained as a ' logical consequence' or even a natural outcome or consequence for failing to pickup your kid on time. Rather than stopping the late pickups , the number of parents arriving late to retrieve their children skyrocketed. The day care then stopped fining the parents ,but the situation remained the same. So what is going on here ?

Parents who picked their kids up late were originally subjected to a minor guilt trip , and a 'social norm '. The right and moral thing to do was to come on time , the day care givers also wanted to go home and your kid was waiting for you as well. By introducing the fines , the day care transformed the social norm and the decision making process into an economic one. They had put a price on the time of the workers at the center. So parents ,instead of asking how their coming late impacted on the kids and caregivers , parents are now asking themselves what will it cost me , or what's in it for me. The social norms have been replaced by economic norms so the decision is now about expedience and doing a cost-benefit analysis. Once the transition had been made the day care could not return to the ' social contract' even when they were no longer any fines. The transformation was irreversible.

When kids screw up and there is now a problem to be solved , we need to choose a response using either a ' social or 'economic' norms. If we tell the kid, there is a logical consequence of playing ball and breaking a window –you need to replace the broken window and pay up ,we are using economic norms. The consequence may be logical , but it is top down. If you get caught then you will be get a consequence to pay for the window. As far as the future is concerned , the consequence is there as some kind of deterrent.

CPS – collaborative problem solving first tries to deal with the future and come up with solutions to the problem. It is important to give the kid a vision for the future and make sure that relationship and trust are intact . Then we deal with the past , making amends, and fixing the damage. When we inform the kid that he needs to replace the window we use an economic norm , but when we just ask the kid what next or how he can make amends, we encourage a ' social norm ' , reflecting on the consequences of one's actions on others and then engaging in the moral act of in restitution.

Alfie Kohn -'In an illuminating passage from her recent book Learning to Trust (2003), Marilyn Watson explained that a teacher can make it clear to students that certain actions are unacceptable while still providing “a very deep kind of reassurance – the reassurance that she still care[s] about them and [is] not going to punish or desert them, even [if they do] something very bad.” This posture allows “their best motives to surface,” thus giving “space and support for them to reflect and to autonomously engage in the moral act of restitution” – that is, to figure out how to make things right after doing something wrong. “If we want our students to trust that we care for them,” she concludes, “then we need to display our affection without demanding that they behave or perform in certain ways in return. It’s not that we don’t want and expect certain behaviors; we do. But our concern or affection does not depend on it.”

An education based on punishment prompts the query, "What am I supposed to do, and what will happen to me if I don't do it?" An education based on rewards leads the child to ask, "What am I supposed to do, and what will I get for doing it?" When values have been internalized by the child, the question becomes "What kind of person do I want to be?" '

We should be asking ourselves if how we respond to kids helps them focus on social norms or transforms the issue into an economic one .


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