Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Punished by Rewards
I read that book Punished by Rewards a long time ago, when my kids were little. It was easy for me to embrace it. Kids needed to accomplish things and explore things because they were curious and loved to learn. They didn't need parents or grades or candy as a reward for doing what they should do. During the years we homeschooled, I talked to my kids a lot about the intrinsic importance of learning. I never talked about the importance of grades.
And, of all the things I said that my kids ignored, for some reason, they adopted this idea, even after they started school. I tried to explain that if they were going to join the "system" then they had to play by the system's rules. They needed to work hard to get good grades. All three of them have felt that minimal work for a B is smarter than a lot of work for an A. They don't work hard at school. They don't study hard. Their GPAs always seem to hover around 3.4 -- not quite enough to get on the honor roll.
They haven't shyed away from taking honors classes, but they seem content to receive Bs in their honors classes.
Finally, as my second kid is getting ready to graduate, I've made the connection between grades and finances. The better grades my kids get, the more help I'm going to get for them from colleges. Now, this may not be true with public universities, but it is with private colleges that offer aid to middle class families.
That's why, last night, as the third quarter of the school year draws to a close, I offered both of my boys $100 if they'll make the honor roll during 4th quarter. With Spencer, it's just a matter of keep his GPA where it is when he graduates. With Tucker, as a sophomore, there's a chance he could graduate with honors and put more dollars in my pocket when he goes off to college.
I was surprised to hear both boys say they would be happy to take up the challenge. Spencer even took his backpack with him to do homework when he headed off to Kasey's garage where they talk about existentialism and the mysteries of girls.
So, yes, I have become that person who offers her kids money for good grades. I am punishing them with monetary rewards when they should be embracing the intrinsic values of learning.
As Bugs Bunny would say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
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