Candy is the great motivator. I resisted it, even fought it. There has always been a running litany in my mind that started with my mother’s “Candy will rot your teeth!” And ended with my own beliefs that an “attaboy” is just as rewarding as a physical token of congratulations; like a piece of candy.
Shouldn’t kids have to do certain things without a reward? Of course, a reward is certainly in order when a child does something out of the ordinary: that is, something you’d like to encourage. A report card with all A’s, perhaps. Or raking leaves without being asked.
He may have raked the leaves so that he could jump in them, but you pretend you don’t know that and reward him before he has a chance to destroy the nice, neat pile. Hopefully, the reward would be large enough to forestall any notions of leaf-pile annihilation. But I digress.
Some things should simply be done without complaint and without reward. It’s practice for parenthood.
Though, what if you have a child who will not do his homework? Note that I said “will not,” not “cannot.” What if this child needed a reason for putting himself through all that effort? What if it wasn’t enough to tell him that if he didn’t learn his multiplication tables, he would be living in a cardboard box outside of a train station? What if he thought living in a cardboard box could be pretty cool?
I thought about my mother’s admonishments, but what good is great teeth, if you live in a cardboard box? Your neighbors would not be likely to notice. At least if he learned his multiplication tables, he could get a job with dental insurance.
My own arguments about rewards did not hold water against this type of rebellion. He could make his own decisions about the type and location of his domicile later. It is my job to make sure he has a choice. I wanted him to learn. He did not want to learn… but he could be bribed.
I brought home a 5 lb. bag of rotten teeth and several toothbrushes. I plopped it down in front of him and told him, “For every paper with a 100% on it, you get one piece of candy. I saw a spark of life.
I’m telling you, it was a miracle! My kid suddenly became a genius!
He ripped through math papers like a hay barn on fire.
He learned his spelling words with all the devotion of a new monk.
He spewed historical dates and people, inventions and documents like a social studies volcano.
“Who are you and what have you done with my kid?” I asked him. He smiled through a wad of red Laffy Taffy. I winced and told him to go brush his teeth for the sixth time that day.
Pleased with his progress, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up now that I knew he would have a choice.
“A racecar driver!” he answered.
Hmmm…I wonder if NASCAR has a good dental plan?
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more info.
Laura is a syndicated columnist, author, & speaker. You can reach Laura at email@example.com Or visit her website <a
for more info.