05 May 2006

Never Underestimate the Power of Bribery--I Mean Rewards

Some people don't understand the difference between Bribery and Rewards. A Bribe is when you give something to someone with the expectation that they will do something for you afterwards. A Reward is when the person does something for you, and then you give them something. There's a big difference, especially when it comes to children and parenting, because a Bribe puts the power in the hands of the child, and the Reward puts the power in the hands of the parent.

Sometimes, though, even though I know the power of the Reward, I still forget about it. I forget that kids need instant gratification. The promise of "We'll go to the park this afternoon if you sweep the sidewalk" isn't any good because they need the reward now.

I haven't been able to convice Frugalboy to clean his room for nearly a week. He asks to play on the computer when he gets home from school and I tell him the same thing every time.

Not Unless Your Room Is Clean.

The same thing, every day. He obviously doesn't want to play that badly or else he'd pick up his Legos and Bionicles and all the dirty socks that accumulate between laundry days.

Yesterday I was informed that there was no school today. I was a little unprepared for this news because having 4 children at home all day keeps me a lot busier than having 2 at home in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, and 4 after 4. So after lunch today I pulled some reinforcements out of my closet. A box of lime Tic Tacs. I told him that if he cleaned his room so that it could be vacuumed, and didn't just cover his dresser, nightstand, and bed with the stuff, that I'd give him the candy. I made him clean out the corners and under the edges of the bed.

After a week of refusing to clean it, he had it spotless in less than 20 minutes. I gave his younger sisters the same challenge (I had a 3-pack of Tic Tacs) and they had their room clean in about 5 minutes. (It wasn't quite as messy)

The 3-pack of Tic Tacs at the dollar store was totally worth it. It bought me an hour of time (3 kids x 20 minutes each at the computer) to fold laundry, sit at the sewing machine, put today's bread in the freezer, and vacuum everyone's spotlessly clean bedrooms.

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