The ends justify the means… I hope

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who started out with high-minded principles and ideas about the raising of children, only to have them fly right out the window as soon as the first actual child appeared. I don’t think any of my original plans are still intact. Lo, how the mighty are fallen!

The last one to go was bribery and behavior charts. I am absolutely repelled by the idea of bribing children for good behavior, or anything else. They should follow rules because we expect them to, dammit! I actually made it pretty far before giving in on this one. I lasted about seven and a half years, in fact. I successfully potty-trained, taught please and thank you, and set limits without distributing one single M&M or placing one single sticker on a fridge-mounted piece of construction paper. Really, I did!

And then I had my third child, Bouncy Boy, who confounded all my expectations and made me re-think everything. In the last six years I have distributed oodles of M&Ms and stuck scads of stickers. And you know what? I discovered that bribery works, oh yes it does.

Our kitten

Bouncy Boy's kitten

I have been most flagrant with bribery (lately) in the Suzuki violin department. Bouncy Boy started violin lessons this fall and I started bribing from day one: if he practiced one hundred days in a row he would get his very own kitten — which he did! (In my defense, I must say that we were already in need of a kitten. We’d been down to just one cat since last spring, alas, and one cat is not enough. If he had failed to practice the hundred days we would still have gotten a kitten. It just wouldn’t have been “his.” But of course we didn’t tell him that.)

The thing is, with the violin I think the ends really do justify the means. One of my main goals as a Suzuki parent is to “create a positive environment” around practicing and playing the instrument. Creating a positive environment doesn’t necessarily mean fun and games, because there’s really no way around some of the drudgery involved in learning a musical instrument. But it does mean making it easy for the child to be successful. Bouncy Boy loves to play the violin because he is good at it. Would he be as good at it, and love it as much as he does, if I hadn’t started him with the bribe? Not a chance!

Eh, didn’t mean to digress there. But the Suzuki triangle (parent, child, teacher) is a very big part of my life these days, probably the single best thing I’ve ever done as a parent, and I expect it will continue to creep into the blogstew every now and again. So, let’s see, I was talking about bribery and high-minded ideals… oh yes! So, Hubs and I decided to try bribing our kids to do chores. All three of them. They don’t get their allowance if they don’t do them, and if they do them with great attitude and no fighting they can earn an extra buck. Is that the most disgusting thing you ever heard? Paying them not only to do chores which they should do anyway, just because they live in the house, and then furthermore paying them not to fight about it? I am so ashamed.

And I am so looking forward to having a clean house.

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About Daxie

I walk the dog, volunteer on the PTO, read obsessively, work freelance, and try to make sense of this crazy world.
This entry was posted in Parenting, Suzuki violin and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The ends justify the means… I hope

  1. I have been told both behaviorists and psychologists alike that rewarding a child for performing a desired outcome is a reward and not a bribe. Apparently, there is a very large difference.

    I, too, wonder why my child is not intrinsically motivated to perform certain tasks (doing well in school) but some people need more extrinsic motivation. Also, some behaviours may be more than some children (like those with ADHD) can achieve without repeated reminders of the reward that awaits them.

    As you obviously know, the bottom line is always what works for you and your family.

  2. Daxie says:

    Yes, you are so right. That IS the bottom line! Also, let’s not forget that adults “bribe” each other too. Only we call it paychecks.

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