Rewarding the Good Stuff

Listen, I’m a consistency pro when it comes to punishment/consequences. Should you ever hear me say “if you do X, then we are leaving”, followed by one of them doing X right in my face, you can be assured your next view will be of our departing backsides. Note: I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, but I trend toward follow through far more often than not.

I usually have enough self control to warn them realistically: for example, I’ve never threatened to throw away all their toys. I have promised– to put 80% of them in the basement for a month. And there was the time when frustration killed my filter and they tried to call my bluff on the no-TV/no-playdate for a week promise. Painful week that was, for all of us.

That left hand pats me on the back for my good parenting, while the right hand reaches around and POP-SMACKS me on the head. What I realized? Because my FIVE year old pointed it out to me yesterday? That I am sucking at the reward follow through.

Now- to be sure, he brought this up at the wrong moment, and said it with the wrong tone of voice. He suffers from middle-class-spoiled-kid syndrome, just like all the rest of ’em. He also suffers from remember-that-time-you-said-that-thing? No? Well, I DO.

I sympathize with the kid– when I was five, my parents promised me a pet pig and a treehouse– neither of which were received, nor (obviously) forgotten.

Z: “Mom can I do chores to earn money so I can buy a light saber?”
Me: “Sure, that’s a great idea! Just let me decide on a list of chores and their corresponding monetary value. Then I need to make these super cute button things from pinterest. Those buttons will need a home, so first I need to finish start the organizational system.”

And, well you can imagine how quickly that’s all going, right?

My conscience has been dancing around this whole issue of them perceiving these things as broken promises, when I intended nothing more than, yeah that would be cool. While it doesn’t excuse the attitude problem, it does offer an explanation for some of the source.

Last night, while painting a bookshelf for their arts and crafts nook– another vital part of chore magnet creation, promise– I had to consider that perhaps just a smidge of primary-colored-good-job-sticker-love could make my life easier. I prefer easy. I can give out stickers, and work up more enthusiasm for the successes. I cannot play hide-n-seek without dusting; I have limits, people.

In the meantime, JB and I settled on a reward for a truly glowing parent/teacher conference. One full hour of lego star wars with JB. According to Z, this was PERFECT!

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