My nine-year-old nephew gave me a strange phone call earlier today.
“Are you pleased with my performance in the final examination?” he began.
I learned about his good results a couple of weeks ago. He ranked second in the class and seventh in the form. What was he after, I wondered.
“Of course I am,” I said. “How about you?”
Rather than answering me, he said: “You didn’t go to Taiwan with me last year. Will you sponsor me for my trip this year?” He even named a price. “Please sponsor two to three thousand dollars.” I was taken aback by the request and the way he made it. That was not the nephew I knew.
It did not take long for me to figure out who was behind all this. The innocent kid did not have a clue what he was saying. He was just reciting something the scripted by his mother. This was confirmed by a phone call to my sister later. I did not speak sanctimoniously, of course, but she quickly took the responsibility and was apologetic.
I think what she orchestrated was not a good idea for two reasons. First, the use of reward to reinforce good academic performance not only fosters an instrumental attitude towards, but also kills interest in, a child’s studies. Second, adults should not take advantage of children’s innocence and obedience to satisfy their own ulterior motives.
Obviously, we have different ideas about what is good for children.