The story of the old man and the insulting children

Posted by Shawn Callahan - April 27, 2007
Filed in Anecdotes, Changing behaviour, Fun

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m reading Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. It’s a terrific book. This story struck my funny bone so I thought I’d share it with you.

Each day an elderly man endured the insults of a crowd of ten-year-olds as they passed his house on their way home from school. One afternoon, after listening to another round of jeers about how stupid and ugly and bald he was, the man came up with a plan. He met the children on his lawn the following Monday and announced that anyone who came back the next day and yelled rude comments about him would receive a dollar. Amazed and excited, they showed up even earlier on Tuesday, hollering epithets for all they were worth. True to his word, the old man ambled out and paid everyone. “Do the same tomorrow,” he told them, “and you’ll get twenty-five cents for your trouble.” The kids thought that was still pretty good and turned out again on Wednesday to taunt him. At the first catcall, he walked over with a roll of quarters and again paid off his hecklers. “From now on,” he announced, “I can give you only a penny for doing this.” The kids looked at each other in disbelief. “A penny?” they repeated scornfully. “Forget it!” And they never came back again.

About Shawn Callahan
Shawn is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

3 Responses to “The story of the old man and the insulting children”

  1. dsanchezbote Says:

    It´s a pretty good history to explain the risk of becoming intrinsic motivation in extrinsic than so beautifully propose Deci and Ryan in their self determination theory.

  2. Johnnie Moore Says:

    Great story. That’s one of my favourite books, a really thought-provoking, intelligent challenge to a lot of assumptions people make about rewards and incentives.

  3. erin Says:

    this is soo funny when i grow old i will use this wise ides:)