Friday, April 10, 2009

Stimulus Package

You would think that I wrap my kids in bubble wrap, the way my husband talks. Granted, Jacob is almost 10 years old and until this past week, would not let us take the training wheels off his bike. He can't swim the crawl, and he can't ride a skateboard or scooter. Heck, just getting him to remember everything he needs before getting in the shower is a challenge.

OK, I know I'm overprotective. But I haven't forbidden him to do these things; I just haven't actively encouraged him. I don't want to be one of those parents who pushes her kids to do things because *I* think they should be doing them. But I will concede that swimming and riding a bike are things a boy needs to know how to do. I gently encouraged him, suggested he take the bike out on sunny afternoons, even offered to hold on to the back to help him feel more steady. Apparently, this was not enough.

How to encourage our kids without being overbearing? It's something I've struggled with since my children have become old enough to learn independence, and independent enough to push back. With all my psychology background, I couldn't find the right balance.

Fortunately, my husband is a man of logic and intelligence. To help me with this challenge, he drew on his parenting skills along with his own background of, well, being a boy. As they say in Vegas, money talks, bullsh*t walks. He told Jacob that if he could ride his bike without training wheels by the end of spring vacation, he'd give him 20 bucks.

Needless to say, within an hour, Jacob's training wheels were gone and he was pedaling, albeit unsteadily, up and down the block.

I have never been above bribery, and can see the logic, especially in Jacob's case: he covets LEGOs, and they are expensive. He's too young to have a job. His birthday and Christmas don't come until the end of the year, and they are the only time he gets gifts. So when he's given a task that will earn him some money, it's pretty much guaranteed that the task will be accomplished and, more than likely, a lot sooner than you would expect. It's a win-win: we get what we need from him, he gets what he wants from us. What's not to love about such an arrangement?

I'll continue to preach to my kids that you can't just throw money at a problem, because they also need to learn problem solving and frugality. But inside, I'm composing a list of things for Jacob to do, and doing quiet little cartwheels on the way to the bank.


Anonymous said...

See even you said it- win-win! I seriously asked the preschool teacher, "I can't remember... Why is bribary bad?". One of those things where the reason was so clear before you had children! Her answer was that bribery is bad when it escalates and becomes an answer to everything. I can live with that! In other words, another trick added to the parenting bag.

Snowbrush said...

I had a rather timid nephew. He grew up to rise high in the local police department. Now he has a wall full of awards, and is always appearing as Mr. June (etc.) on one cop calendar or another. There's no figuring these things sometimes.