Using music as an incentive, for children!

Last evening, I was trying to get my 7 year old son for his evening bath. Like most 7 year olds, his priorities were elsewhere – on his Nerf gun…on the paper planes he has made…basically on everything else besides a bawling dad who wants him for a bath.

Most parents have options in such situations – bawl even more, lose patience and shout the heck out of that child (trust me, it happens – parenting is an exercise in mastering your patience). Or, incentivize the ‘get here for your bath’ task so that you give something to him to make him come fast. I usually end up incentivizing small things – an extra page of Harry Potter for his bedtime story…a new small toy…Pizza at Papa Johns (he loves it!) in the weekend and so on.

I was frankly tired of those incentives – they really felt like bribing the child. And I had to think fast at that time – I was late for a call and I had to get this kid clean right away.

That was when a thought stuck me!

First, I shouted out that I had ‘something for him’. That’s simply the hook – it always works with most children – you don’t need to say what you have – just the announcement that you have something gets them interested.

As I had guessed, he came running into the bathroom and asked me what I had for him! He is usually used to the things I listed above…but I told him I had something very special for him. By now, he was incredibly curious and there are very few things in this world as annoying as a curious child. So, I gave him something to mull on – ‘I have a brand new, fantastic song for you!’, I told him.

He was stumped. He’s not used to a song as bribe, but I know he likes music even though he lacks the patience to sit through even a 5 minute song like most hyperactive 7 years. He has, in the past, shown tremendous interest in certain songs and in one of the out of the city drives, e even made is play his favorite song about 150 times – yes, 150, I’m not joking. Back to back, that too.

So, the tactic worked. To make it special, I told him that I’m going to play that special song through in-ear phones so that he can enjoy it even better. He was beaming ear-to-ear by now. Bath over…I played him the song via in-ear phones and was watching his face display an ecstatic range of emotions – I guess he loved the song!

This is amazing – really. Here I am, a passionate music blogger…people trust my reviews and listen to new songs. I listen to at least one or two soundtracks every single day. So, why haven’t I put this to better use? Now I am doing it, I suppose.

It helps that I listen to so much music – I’m sure most of us do. It also helps that my son is reasonably interested in music, even for a severely distracted 7 year old. And this is a great way to introduce music (I won’t say good, but just those I feel are good – his tastes may evolve, eventually – but again, my taste in music evolved from the songs my dad played when I was a kid…so there!). And, think about it – I can do this again and again, with newer songs/music.

What really worked more than just the idea of using new music to incentivize kids was the way I piqued his curiosity – that is classic PR at work, if I say so myself. I literally built the hype on the song I was going to play for him. I also added to it by saying that I’m going to play that to him using in-ear phones, something that he has been eyeing for quite some time.

If you are super curious as to which song I played for him (ans the one that really triggered this idea) – it was ‘Enname edho’ from Harris Jayaraj’s Ko! Now that I know the kind of songs he likes, I see tremendous potential for future incentives – who better than me to select songs as incentives? 😉

PS: Your mileage may vary, depending on how soon kids get an iPod in your country/culture 🙂