Pester Power – Worth Exploring For Effective And Sustained Behaviour Change

Last month, I was amused to hear my seven your old son asking me not to buy crackers for Deepawali. Deepawali in India is one of the biggest festivals, which is celebrated with equal joy and enthusiasm by all ages, strata, sex, caste and religion. This is a festival of lights as the name suggests (Deep is Light and Aavli is a row or sequence – lights decorated in a row). But gradually this festival of lights turned into festival of bursting crackers. The more crackers you burst, the wealthier you are considered.
Coming back to my son’s assertion for not buying crackers. I was pleasantly surprised and enquired what makes him say that. He unravels the mystery and explained – his eight years old friend (neighbour actually) has explained him the issue of worsening status of environment of Delhi and also that his dog tends to get scared by the noise of the ear-cracking crackers. I was delighted, the eight year old kid was able to convince him, who would have otherwise pressurised me to buy a bunch of them. But I’m glad he pestered this time for a good cause.
It is relatively easy to convince children by explaining the advantages as well as disadvantages of a particular behaviour. As I also wrote in my last book (Is it really clean – Creating a WASH Index) – “It is easy to influence the mindset of children, who in turn, would be able to change the mindset and habits of the older family members. Man is the product of habits and behaviour developed in childhood”.
I would like to add another classical example of an alert and responsible young mind I witnessed recently. As a part of my daily routine, I was at my children’s school bus stand to see them off. I noticed something, very interesting. The colony cleaning staff was cleaning the roads and collecting the garbage in the dustbin (placed under the Swachch Bharat Mission) nearby. This kid (in picture) quickly surveyed around, then peeped into the bin and noticed that the cleaner has inadvertently missed some part of garbage. He promptly informed this to him and the cleaner obliged. There were many adults (including myself), who did not notice or did not bother to, but the small kid with his mighty alertness managed to contribute to the cleanliness of the locality. There are several examples we see around us every day that suggests that children can be effectively used as the agents of changes for changing behaviours. We must also ponder if we really need to borrow the approaches from the mainstream marketing and advertising companies like engaging high profiled celebrities and expensive mass media ads to create the Behaviour Change Communications. Or can we start thinking out of box, generate some novel ideas and use children as the protagonists and change agents. The phrase “Catch them young” could yield effective results for behaviour change in the context of WASH, Health and other social issues. Please feel free to share your views and thoughts in order to build this further

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