October 1, 2022

The Premack Principle a.k.a. Grandma’s Rule

There is a rather simple natural principle that is at the heart of many solutions to our problems. “Grandma’s Rule” is the colloquial name for the formal “Premack Principle.” It connotes a commonsense and practical natural principle…which it is. Simply put, it says that when you pair an activity of low interest and reward with an activity of high interest and reward, you raise the probability that the low reward activity will be completed successfully. Okay, here’s Grandma’s Rule put more simply: “Eat your spinach and then you’ll get your ice cream.”

Such an elegant and simple “natural” principle! When we commit to it as a natural and guiding principle that is portable (we can take it anywhere) it simplifies and tends to balance our lives as parents―as it benefits our children’s competency and autonomy. The portability of this simple, yet powerful principle allows us to effectively use its power in any system.

Public policies in a government established by the people and for the people will always be more balanced and effective when those policies are directly associated with the power of our natural principles, such as “Grandma’s Rule.” This rule, just like all rules, is contingent. That means that if we don’t eat our spinach, we don’t get the ice cream. In families or any system, if we don’t participate, we don’t get the benefits of the system. Let’s be clear…this is not a punishment. It is not selfish or cruel to hold others or to be held personally accountable to these powerful guiding principles. Quite the contrary, this principle and others like it are principles of health, well-being, and balance and are at the core of our personal responsibility and our responsibility to others.

These are some of my thoughts…tell me yours. Until next time―”Claim your power and expand your dreams!” ~Dr. B

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