Do you value time more than money?
What motivates you? Are you most driven by family duty, time or money?
If your daycare centre introduced a fine system, would that deter you from being late to pick your child up?

This is the premise of a study done in Israel in the late 1990s. The results were rather surprising: given the opportunity to pay a fine for lateness, the parents started coming late much more often than before when no fine was in place.

What motivates us is very personal, but this study seems to suggest that, for most parents, paying a little extra for greater flexibility is well worth it. They see the fine as a worthwhile price they have to pay to take the time they need.

The fine seemed to give permission to break the agreed social contract between parent and school.

Quoting the study at a recent Tech4Africa conference, American author Clay Shirky said: ‘You have to know when you’re engaging financial and cultural motivations. And if you mix them up or substitute them, you can actually make things worse.’

Instituting the fine lifted the sense of guilt parents felt towards the school being late. If I’m paying, that means it’s okay with the teacher, right?

What seems to be lost is a sense of the duty the parent has towards the child. Does the child want to be left at school for extra time?

There is a consequence to the child and the family of delaying pick-up time: less time at home, more rushing to get supper and bathtime done, potentially more stress at bedtime. Tired, fractious pre-school children who don’t care that Mom had an extra half an hour to finish her report at the office. Parents know this. But we can’t reist delaying that inevitable purple hour at the end of the day just a little longer.

It all comes down to what we value highest: extra flexibility; our duty to the school or child (or both); or money.

Read more by Adele Hamilton

What does your list of values look like?

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