Monday, July 4, 2016

Trick or Treat on the Fourth

Just when I thought I had a great idea for a Fourth of July post, my girls changed my mind for me. That seems to happen quite a bit, but since they typically have better ideas than me, I just go with the flow. The idea of trick or treat came up today - of all days - on Independence Day. The idea for this post came from the following conversation between my wife and older daughter:

Sarah: "I have a possible treat for you girls today."
Ziva: "Is it a real treat or a different kind of treat?"
Sarah: "What?..."
Ziva: " You know....Something we would like."
Me: "Yeah honey. Is it a trick or treat?"
Sarah: "You mean like bribery versus reward?"

By that point the girls had lost interest and wandered off, but the gears started cranking in my head. 

We offer up treats to our girls on a near daily basis. I will admit that a few of them ride that fine line between bribery and reward. If you're a parent, you'll understand that the line between bribery and reward can get a little grey at times. We have a lengthy "list" of things that are just expected of our girls without reward or treat. We also understand a little encouragement (treats) are fun along the way too.

Although we have general expectations of our girls that shouldn't warrant an added treat for completion, we understand a treat every now and then goes a long ways. Maybe they've just had a spectacular day with minimal arguing or bickering. Maybe they went out of their way to be helpful around the house. Whatever the case may be, it's fun to give them that little reward for doing well.

We use rewards in a few different ways. Neither of our girls get an allowance as of right now. Most of the chores that typically generate said allowance are things we just expect from them a member of the family. (Making their bed, picking up their room, etc.) Once they start mowing the lawn for me or doing the dishes for my wife, we might discuss allowance....maybe.

We use a combination of immediate response rewards as well as long term rewards. An immediate reward in our house would be something like an ice cream cone after lunch for being so helpful around the house all morning. That is an immediate "return on their actions." On the longer term end, we have a jar we fill up with little wooden hearts. When they have a spectacular day or go above and beyond, we say they "put a heart in our bucket" and we literally put a heart in the jar. Filling that jar earns them some agreed upon reward like going to the movies or the zoo.  

I think "bribery" gets a bad rap sometimes. Most parents will tell you that they have used some form of bribery at one point or another. It is a fine line to walk, but it does seem to help when you're having one of those days that just seems to be going down hill.

The "rewards" I listed above may seem like bribery, but it really comes down to how you use it. If the kids expect a reward for doing something, you're probably doing it wrong. If they are pleasantly surprised to earn something from their hard work, then you're probably on the right track.

I take a little bit of comfort in being able to justify my bribery as well. Let's say all the kids are melting down and it's not even lunch time yet. You have a lot to do that day and just want to make it through the day without pulling out all your hair. You decide to pull out the big guns. "If we can all behave for the rest of the day, we will go to McDonald's and get Happy Meals for supper." 

There. You did it. You just bribed your kids. Or did you? It's all about how good you are at justifying your actions. To me, that's not bribery. That's self preservation and a little treat for yourself. The kids think they're getting a reward for being good all day, but it's really you who gets the reward. You are able to complete your list of tasks for the day while the kids behave AND you don't have to cook supper. It's Win-Win. 

Trick or Treat
That all being said, it's really how you look at it that determines if it's a reward or bribery. Or, in my case, whether it's a trick or a treat. I trick the kids into thinking they're getting a treat for basically doing what I expect of them anyway. In reality, I just don't want to listen to the arguing all day or have to make supper. 

Don't get me wrong though. This trick or treat concept isn't my first choice. I save that for extreme cases when I'm just not really feeling up to running the regular paces. More often that not, I stick to the "because I said so" plan that many of us are familiar with from our own childhoods. The problem with that is it's not completely understood until you grow up, become a parent and use it on your own kids. 

Since it is Independence Day, I should point out that a lot of the struggles we have been facing lately with our two girls are directly related to independence. Our girls are 5 and 7....going on 15 and 17. They are both very independent young ladies. There is good and bad to that.

Just like with our own nation's independence, it started with a disagreement, arguing and ultimately a battle. Sounds like a Tuesday morning in our house...without the gun fights. The good side of it is that our girls want to be independent. Cleaning your room because mom and dad told you to isn't being independent, but choosing to clean your own room because you're a "big kid" is being independent. The trick (yes - I have a whole bag of tricks) is to make them think it was their idea so they're being independent rather than following orders. Until next time....