Bribe Your Children Well
I did make the mistake of rewarding with food. I got away with it with LilProgrammer, but ChinchillaBoy really got into that whole ritual, to the point where he rewards himself with food now. Needless to say, ChinchillaBoy could stand losing some weight. I guess if we had hereditary weight problems on any side of our family, I would've never used food or eating out as a reward to begin with.
I pay my kids for work. I define "work" as something inconvenient or physically hard that they don't have to do; don't want to do; only do so because I asked; and are doing a good job of it. A few months ago, LilProgrammer took an SAT for the Midwest Talent Search. He did not want to do it, but I asked him because I thought it might give him access to programs he might want to use in the future. He spent several weeks studying for the test, an hour or two almost every day. As you all know, the SAT runs from 8AM till 12:30PM on a Saturday. To top it off, a week after the test, LilProgrammer came down with a major flu - I am talking a 104 degree fever - that he probably got from someone at the testing site. In other words, major pain in the ass. But he still went through with it and did an awesome job. His best score was in math and I'll tell you right here that it was a 640. Pretty impressive for an eighth-grader. So, yes, out came wads of cash. Well deserved, I say.
Likewise, I pay ChinchillaBoy for serving in the altar. The way I see it, he could be dozing off peacefully in a pew instead of being on his feet for two hours carrying heavy objects and burning candles. So, each time he does it, I add three dollars to his allowance. If it's a night service, out come $15. Again, the way I see it, he could be home watching TV like the rest of his friends.
I don't like paying for chores - my reasoning is, hey, no one pays me. So they hardly do any. Maybe it's time for me to come up with a price list after all. Both kids are freakishly strong and could do things around the house that I can't. I should probably put their strength to good use.
I also tried the fines - withholding allowance for bad behavior, loss of privileges and such. Sometimes it worked; other times it backfired, like that infamous time I tried to fine them 25 cents for every swear word. I ended this practice after LilProgrammer came to me with a "list of ChinchillaBoy's swear words", broken down neatly by category: F-word, S-word, et cetera. We've taken LilProgrammer's computer cables away a few times when he got extra crabby or when his grades dropped. It wasn't, though, as much a loss of privileges as it was an act of helping LilProgrammer pull his head out of his computer monitor and reconnect with reality.
Last but not least comes the oft-discussed paying for grades. I know people that do it and it works for them. Personally, I could never get it. Of course, I could never get good grades for good grades' sake, either. I'm not saying that it is okay with me if my kids fail all subjects, but I'm not gonna whup their asses for anything less than a hundred per cent on a quiz, either. I see grades more like an indicator of how my kids are learning in school. If it's As and Bs, they are likely learning what they're supposed to, and won't have problems with the more difficult material in the future. If it is Cs and Ds, then it's time for me to step in and offer help. I don't see a B as all that different from an A. The difference between an A and a B could be explained by bad weather, the kid's foul mood, or the teacher's PMS. These things happen. If we get into the Cs, however, to me it means they're falling seriously behind and need to catch up. This is where I differ with the paying-for-grades crowd. As far as I've heard, they see school as the kid's place of work, not the place where he comes to learn things and acquire new skills. Consequently, they view grades as the kid's performance-review results, if you will. From that standpoint, paying for grades makes perfect sense. To me, it doesn't, so I don't do it. First of all, school doesn't fall under my definition of work. It should never be "something annoying that you don't really want to do, but your mom told you to so you have to put up with it." We try to ensure that our kids enjoy the learning process at least to some extent at all times; and we lead by example. I don't believe that a person who dislikes learning will get anywhere far in life.
I do, however, praise the kids lavishly for their successes in school, take time off work to come to their awards ceremonies, and display their reports and honor rolls on the fridge.
I am sure glad I didn't try posting all this in Paula's comment section.