The “Do-Get” Theory

Children learn that when the “do” something, they “get” something.  This is the “do-get” theory.  It works both ways.  When they do something well, we praise them, get excited for them.  Hang their art work on the refrigerator.  They learn that by “doing” that particular action or activity, they receive positive reinforcement. It encourages them to continue doing that activity and doing it well.

They also learn than when they “do” something that is “bad” or “wrong” in our eyes, they receive negative attention – getting yelled at, shamed or put-down.  We have all known a few teachers that operate on this principle.  That somehow shaming someone will teach them to do it right.  On the contrary, it only teaches them not to try at all lest the do it “wrong” and get shamed again.

The positive outcome of “do-get” theory, is that we can teach our children discipline.  I used this technique when my children wanted something – a new bike or toy.  If they “do” save up enough money, they will “get” the thing they want.  For example, my son wanted a dune buggy.  I said if he saved up “x” number of dollars, we would pay for the rest.  He had to “do” something to “get” the dune buggy.  And he did!

This teaches children that they must get off their butts and be actively involved in their lives and their wants.  If we always give a child what they want without the “do” part, they expect that life will always be that way.

It can be something as simple as saying, “When you put away your toys (do) we will read a story together. (get)  It teaches the simple principle of discipline – that life requires a certain amount of work – of give and take.  When they are older, they will better understand that they must work to get that big house, that big promotion or that nice car!

Angela Di Cicco

Mother of 3, grandmother of 2

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