Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bribes and Such

Getting Liam to sit still long enough to work on things he should know by kindergarten (which will be this coming August!) is like getting blood out of a turnip.  For months we've been working on the basics and the boy just doesn't care.  He will sit still and listen for two to three minutes, declare, "This is SO hard!" and then stomp off.  Evan, on the other hand, absorbs everything like a sponge, so much so that when I ask them to repeat something we've been working on, Evan is more than eager to answer first.  It was when Evan told Liam, "I'm smart and you're not," that I decided that something had to be done.

So I started bribing my kid to learn.  Sigh.

I hated it when my classmates were bribed for doing their homework and for getting good grades.  I'd bring home a report card with straight A's and get, "Good job.  Keep it up."  Then there was the girl down the street who was paid $20 for each A she earned.  That was per six weeks.  With six classes, she had the potential to earn $120 every six weeks and $720 for the year.  That's a lot of money to a high school student.  Heck, that's a lot of money for an adult and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was jealous of her reward.

But, you know what?  I learned to internally motivate myself and that's what I'd planned to do with my kids.  It worked on Sydney.  It works on Evan.  But Liam?  He needs a bribe.  (If you could see me, you'd see my head hanging in shame.)

I don't bribe him with money because he's five and so far, he has no use for money.  However, he does like M&Ms and to play Wii (Lego Star Wars is the current favorite) so those are his rewards.  And you know what?  It works.

Here's what I overheard today:

Liam: We want to play Wii, Daddy.

Ryan: What are the days of the week?

Liam: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Ryan: What's our address?

Liam: #### Correct Street Name

Ryan: Who is Luke Skywalker's father?

Liam: Darth Vader.

I cracked up.  I usually don't throw in Star Wars trivia, but I'm glad to know that he remembers it.

I'm not proud that we're having to bribe him to learn these things, but absolutely nothing else has worked for this kid.  And while it's great that his current rewards are inexpensive, I am kinda worried about what the rewards will have to be when he's a teenager.  Money?  A car?  An all-expenses paid trip to meet his current hero, George Lucas?

Or maybe he'll learn to motivate himself.  One can hope, right?


  1. I don't think there is anything wrong with what you are doing and I wouldn't really consider it a bribe! We have a summer system where the boys {since Pattie isn't in school yet but I may start it with her as WE prep for kinder in the fall (YIKES!)} "earn" computer/game time by having comnpleted their chores and reading. Allowing Liam time on the Wii in response to time spent learning is a great tool! No need for shame :)

  2. He'll be just fine. You guys tend to worry too much, but such is the life of parents these days. Thanks for your blogs, they brighten our days. Love U!

  3. He'll figure it out. And maybe he will be motivated differently. But part of parenting is learning what makes each child tick. You're doing a great job at that!

  4. Tien said...

    I thought that was called positive inforcement :-)