Saturday, March 03, 2012

Incentives Matter

My college buddy once pointed out that Santa Claus is confusing, because kids are never sure if they are supposed to be "good for goodness' sake" or because they'll get stuff.  I'll leave "good for goodness' sake" for later; I'm fine with my kids needing incentives in order to do the right thing.

Case in point: earlier this week, Aaron woke up before Jada, and, unprompted, started cleaning their play area.  When I went upstairs to check on him, he announced to me what he was doing, and made sure to point out that he was doing it even though no one told him.  But when I called him downstairs several minutes later for breakfast, he started howling.  It turns out that he wanted a reward for his good deed, which was to watch TV before breakfast.  I explained that that isn't usually allowed, so while I was super happy that he had cleaned the play area unprompted, he would still have to come down for breakfast.

The howling continued before abating, but even then it was clear he was hurt that he didn't get his anticipated reward.  I compromised by saying that if he finished his breakfast and got ready for school, he could watch five minutes of TV before we left the house.  That seemed to satisfy him, both in terms of getting to do a favored activity as well as in terms of receiving something, however small and symbolic, for his good deed.
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