When the Princess was a small girl, she used to hit people. Her grandmother, the psychologist, said it was much better to incentivise than to punish as, she observed wisely, “You run out of punishments.” So for many years, at the end of the Princess’s day, if she hadn’t hit someone she got a smiley face. Relatively early on this turned into a complete win for her as she didn’t hit people very often and every time she got five smiley faces she got a small present. Efforts to extend the smiley face criteria beyond physical violence to other forms of misbehaviour were largely unsuccessful due to the less definite descriptions of the fault and the consequent room for debate. In time, the regime was extended to her brothers.
Her involvement was phased out and replaced with pocket money of â‚¬5. In recent years, the boys are in her former situation, where physical violence is minimal and smiley face presents are many. Since the smiley face presents are almost always a magazine, we have recently negotiated with the boys that their smiley faces will be replaced by a subscription to the Beano. And just like that, a regime which has been going since 2007, at least, is over. On balance, the relief in not having to find smiley face presents makes it all worthwhile.
I hope that, in the absence of incentives, it doesn’t all return to primeval chaos here.