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Friday, 9 January 2015

The Guinea Pig Trauma: Why Incentives Don't Work

Hello all!

 It's time for a fun explanation of why incentives to follow demands don't work with us Pathological Demand Avoiders! Enjoy!

If you have PDA, you avoid demands, simple. Now, the bigger and potentially more complex this demand gets, the more anxiety you will get about complying with it, thus making it more difficult to follow. So, if you think it's a good idea to give incentives to your child to follow your demands, keep on reading!

When I was younger, despite having OCD, I simply could not keep my room tidy; not because I was particularly messy by nature, but simply because it was a demand. Not difficult, it had benefits for me, I would have preferred it tidy, but it was a demand. When told to go to my room and tidy, I simply could not handle it, I did not have a clue how to cope with the demand, so would just sit around unable to do it until helped, basically. But I'd manage eventually.

Clueless that PDA even existed, my mum said I could have a pet if I kept my room tidy for 3 months! Now, I was absolutely desperate to get some guinea pigs, and was determined to do it- this made everything worse. Once there was actually an incentive but still a direct demand, it was incredibly difficult. It went from a demand to a very important demand that I placed upon myself, too- almost like if a child is told a secret, how they're desperate to tell someone even if they whole-heartedly want to keep the secret, I was completely paralysed by the importance of this and simply could not do it, which made me feel not only at fault for my lack of guinea pigs, but like a failure who couldn't do something simple. This is both debilitating and disheartening for the child with PDA, and certainly knocks confidence.

I was therefore deprived of something I really wanted... and I'm sorry if this comparison offends anyone or if I sound disrespectful, but to me doing this to your child (in my case) is like saying "hey, I know you're in a wheelchair and can't walk, but if you walk just a few steps, really simple, like I can, you can have something you really like!"

Why punishments won't work is more obvious, but equally to be avoided. Your child is already scared by the demand- so scared that they cannot do it, so adding fear to this will get you nowhere, and will just make your child even more miserable, so please don't!

Hopefully my guinea pig deprivation will have been useful to someone!

Annabelle x


  1. Oh my goodness, this is the perfect way to describe how it all feels for you Annabelle, and this has given me a whole new understanding of what my son is going through on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Thank you.

  2. Ah, so that is why my girl ended up not seeing the Arctic Monkies!