If you are a dog owner then you already know how difficult it can be to give your dog a pill when he or she is sick. Rarely will the dog voluntarily eat the bland tasting pill, but smart dog owners know that if you wrap that pill in something yummy, like a piece of bacon, the dog will quickly acquiesce. Metaphorically speaking, the “dog-medicine” approach to learning is something worth considering, especially when you are trying to sell your kids on a good idea that they don’t yet see the value of in the moment. If the bacon helps get a dog to eat a pill, what kind of “bacon” can you use to sell a new lesson or skill to your kids? This week we will explore how using psychology can help parents in turn get their kids to more readily comply with challenging tasks.
Applying the bacon…
Lets say you need to sell the idea of studying…what ideas and visions can you wrap around the laborious task of studying to ensure greater motivation and compliance? For some kids the idea of making a lot of money later in life as an adult might change the view of studying into something more palatable, and for other kids the idea that better grades result in more freedom and autonomy in their lives (i.e. later curfew) can lead to more favorable views about studying. Better studying leads to improved grades, a greater chance at post-high school educational opportunities, and ultimately better odds for an enjoyable, good paying job. Unfortunately, rarely are these connections made by kids tasked to “get their homework done.”
The idea here is not to lie to kids, but to instead broaden their world views so that they can more clearly see the rationale behind the tasks in front of them (authoritative parenting). Similar to how studying leads to better grades and increased odds for future success, working out in the weight room usually helps athletes earn more playing time, and practicing music or theater increases the chances for greater proficiency and opportunities to gain more important roles in musical events and plays. Connecting the dots is important — especially when guiding kids — and the better you connect current tasks to future feelings, opportunities, and things kids can eventually acquire, the more motivation you will witness from your kids.
Connecting to future benefits
One of the biggest variables educators must contend with when teaching students is to gain their interest, motivation, and compliance toward learning. When kids are disinterested, or even just mildly tuned in, the learning that follows is mediocre, at best (in fact, today we erroneously call these kids “ADHD”). All of this changes, of course, when students become interested in what is being taught, and see value and utility in the information they are learning. This “value and utility” is the metaphorical “bacon,” and it is what takes previously perceived worthless, time-wasting information into information that is invaluable toward future happiness, health, and life success. While a dog may only come to understand the yummy taste of bacon, humans are able to enjoy their own “bacon” not by taste, but by the allure of a future that is congruent with their dreams and ambitions.
Forcing kids to learn what you are teaching them is not always an easy task, especially when they find what you are offering to be boring, useless, or irrelevant to their lives. Skillful parents and teachers know this, and they find strategic ways to connect otherwise mundane information to future possibilities, including happiness, prosperity, and an overall healthy and productive life. Once kids buy in, learning is strengthened and the odds for future success increase dramatically, making it a worthwhile endeavor to find creative ways to connect with kids.