my new incentive program

Sometimes I give my daughter a cracker for getting in the car.  It’s an activity that she does not particularly enjoy which we have to do several times a day, and I find that if I sweeten the deal with a saltine she is a much more pleasant passenger.  Say what you will about bribing children, munching is preferable background noise to shrieking.

This has got me to thinking that my kids have it pretty good.  They get treats, rewards and incentives for some very mundane tasks. 

If you clean up the den we will have lots of space to play!

Take you bath nicely so we will have time to read together before bed.

You can have dessert as soon as you finish your pizza (unclear why pizza is now a health food that I am pushing).

If you take a good nap we will go to the park!

Can I Googlemaps directions to this magical land where taking a nap is not the reward in itself?  I know what I would give for a good nap (my appendix, gall bladder and most of a kidney.  Deal.), but my children get the nap and the park without any ‘ectomies’.  Lucky dogs!

They made out like bandits last time we were at the dentist – they got stickers, pencils, new toothbrushes, and Sponge Bob toothpaste.  They also got to choose fluoride flavors from a menu that included marshmallow and chocolate.  On Sundays my three year old wavers back and forth between wanting to go to Chuck E. Cheese and wanting to get his teeth cleaned.

Imagine if the over-30 set had such motivation to go to the doctor.  Hours d’oeuvres in the waiting room, live entertainment during the blood pressure check, a choice of which color scale to use, and a Smurfette stethoscope!  I would never delay scheduling a pap smear again. (All kidding aside, there being only one female smurf begs all sorts of questions.)

When my oldest son finishes his homework he gets to read or play for a while before getting ready for bed.  My prize for helping him finish his homework?  I get to make lunches.  Lunches that my children specifically request and then don’t eat the next day.  Worst. Reward. Ever.

So in the interest of fairness and justice for all I have decided to start an incentive program of my own.  I now get a mini Twix for getting into the car nicely. I get two if I get myself buckled without poking or teasing the person next to me.  I get an extra game of Tetris for not yelling during bedtime.  And you bet your pizza I get dessert when I finish what’s on my plate. 

And at my next doctor’s visit the dangerously high numbers on that fluorescent purple scale will indicate just how well I am succeeding at the tasks of life.  And they also may signify that it is time to start rewarding myself for using the treadmill.  

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Paul Skowronski April 30, 2012 at 03:09 PM
While I'm not one to tell another person how to raise their kids (I'm not here... i'm simply voicing my opinion), I believe that rewarding kids to do things they should be doing that fits into the "respect your parents" bubble (chores, getting into the car, taking naps, etc.) only contributes to the associative society that we have now. It sends the message that if they do something they're expected to do, then there is personal gain there. How about rewards (I used to call it an allowance) for doing meaningful things like chores and yardwork? I'm not discounting rewarding children, but reward them for meaningful things like yardwork or good grades. Or helping the old lady down the street mow her lawn. Not "if you take a nap, you get a cookie". They should take a nap simply because you tell them to. It's like my dog. I give him a treat to roll over. If I don't have a treat, he doesn't roll over. It's psychological blackmail!!!
Debbie S. April 30, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Paul - I agree! It sounds like Kally is on the more minor end of this reward/bribe spectrum into which we ALL fall as parents by necessity sometimes. It can definitely be taken to an extreme, though. I had a friend who so over-rewarded her kids for EVERYTHING that they actually asked to be paid for brushing their teeth and hair before school - seriously! This happened recently and they range in age from 6 to 13. I was shocked, but not surprised. After all, kids that get paid for everything (helping to clean up, bringing in groceries, etc...) start to expect it. But I don't think Kally giving her young daughter a saltine is anywhere near THAT end of the spectrum. I have a funny story about rewards: my 10 year old daughter LOVES using the toilet wand, so sometimes she gets "rewarded" for something by being "allowed" to clean the toilets. I'm sure this won't last long, but you can bet I'm milking it for all its worth while it lasts!


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