I've noticed something unfortunate.

When I was a kid in Sunday school or regular school or at camp, people were rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad. Child rearing was pretty deterministic in its use of positive and negative reinforcement. Kids who were listening quietly would be called on first or would be picked for special things. Kids who were noisy would be glared at, ignored, sent to the hall, or given a good talking to. It set up this precedent that good things came to good, or at least well-behaved, people.

The other day at the Y, a child in the day camp lost a shoe. On his way out he asked the front desk, “Have you seen a shoe that looks like this?” pointing to his one shoe-clad foot. Later his mother came back to the Y. She was livid. Said that the Y owed her a new pair of shoes. She threatened to call the police (?). And started walking all over the building, where as a non-member she was not supposed to be. Two managers, a custodian, and two camp counselors were searching everywhere for the shoe. Everybody just wanted to appease her so she would go away and not further muck up their day.

If she were a child she would be sent to the hall. She would be taught how sometimes children lose things. It’s just what they do, and throwing a fit won’t make it any better. I’d tell her how looking for her son’s shoe is not worth five people’s time.

But because she is an adult, telling her all this would just make her angrier, make the fiasco last longer. She was given special treatment because she was behaving badly.

And that’s how things seem to work in business. If a patron complains about her food (and especially if she starts going berserk) she’s given a free meal. Companies bend rules and give out free things to appease angry people. Adults are rewarded for bad behavior, and good things come to those who are pushy.


  1. You know, it's not only like this for adults, but a lot of kids are rewarded the same way. Maybe it used to be limited to adults, but now I think a lot of kids are pushy and whiny because their parents (who are perhaps just the same way) reward them for being so. Christa sees parents getting pushed over by their kids all the time.

    After writing this, I feel like I should go yell at some kids to get off my lawn...

  2. Very interesting observation Amy. Should we be able to punch adults IN THE FACE who are throwing fits, as we so often do to children?