Being the parents of two young children, my wife and I have had to learn the best ways to help them develop behaviors that will be most helpful (at least according to us) when they grow up.
This means we’ve learned to do our best to move from a deficit model (i.e. taking away opportunities) to a growth model (earning opportunities).
Sometimes, our most basic thinking gets the better of us, and we revert to punishment. But, when we do things well, we find that focuses on earning time (whether it be to play a game, watch a bit of television, read an additional book before bed, etc.) tend to pay dividends in helping to foster positive behaviors (and to reinforce that these are the types of actions that build character and help us grow).
In many ways, having to earn, rather than taking away, requires much more work, and the results may take longer to actually see. But, this is to be expected, as a growth model focuses on constant change and often, smaller, benchmarks. Whereas a punishment model attempts to stop things immediately, a growth focus encourages the view that life is a process, and things never really end.
In our professional lives, much is the same. The other evening I was having a conversation with a colleague about whether learning should be easy or hard. My colleague felt that when learning happens well, it is easy; I disagree and feel that the most valuable learning is a constant rigorous process.
I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong here, but I feel that when we “earn” something, rather than have it come easy to us (or have it be taken away), we are more apt to hold onto it, and value its existence. Working hard for things provides us with perspective, and gives us the sense that resources (time, energy, money) are finite, and need to be respected, and therefore our decision-making needs to support this. Hard work always seems to add value. That’s why, for instance, an allowance only builds an understanding of the value of money if work is attached to it. That’s also why the best lessons we have ever taught are the ones where the investments of ourselves, and our learners, was so high.
Some might think that the response “You’ve got to earn it” is a detractor, and puts others in a negative frame. I would counter with the question, “Why aim for a destination that you don’t really want to arrive at?