Oh, how I love teaching behavior lessons from this :41 second clip from a very funny movie, Office Space. Hilarious (if you havent seen the movie, you need to).
A little background here for those who have not watched the movie: its a spoof on the “cubicle” jobs/offices. The interviewers here, “the Bobs,” are “consultants” sent in by the company, Initech, basically to fire people. The guy, Peter, is an employee who just had a revelation on his life and work and has, well, a great view on things.
Watch this clip video, then lets move on.
Think about this in terms of your home – your kid. Are you motivating your child to behave in a way just enough to NOT get punished? Have you found yourself saying, “he does just enough to get by…but really doesn’t put in any more effort than he has to?” Hmmm.
Lets think a bit about what he says (running the risk of ruining this portion of the movie for you, but oh well):
“Its not that I’m lazy, its just that I don’t care…it’s a problem of motivation, alright?
Your child’s “laziness” simply means that she is not motivated by the same things that motivate you. She is more motivated to avoid cleaning her room than gaining the “satisfaction” of having a clean room or, shall I dare say, “pleasing” you. He is more motivated to escape the homework assignment than to “earn the A” or avoid the “embarrassment” of not having his work done. She is clearly more motivated to play with her Princess Barbie than she is to shower and “be clean” to “not smell” or to “not be gross.” “It’s a problem of motivation, alright?”
“When I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it…that’s my only real motivation: not to be hassled. That and the fear of losing my job…that only makes someone work just hard enough to not get fired.”
What else is there to say about that? What are we teaching when we only really respond to the mistakes and not the effort, the inappropriate behavior more than the appropriate? Are we teaching laziness? Are we teaching avoidance? Are we teaching the “just get by” approach?
One of the lessons here is sometimes we have to have what we call “artificial” reinforcers: things that “reward” behavior that don’t naturally occur. For example, candy does not fall out of the sky when you use the potty, clean up your room or say nice words. We use these artificial reinforcers to build behaviors that will, one day, become reinforced by the natural social reinforcers (having a clean house, clean hair and clean language) because of the social benefits of these behaviors. Its about making it important to them in a way that is important to them…not you. At this point, the motivation is to do rather to avoid the consequences of not doing.