Friday, May 31, 2013

To reward or not to reward...

I just got a phone call that has me confused. I'm not exactly sure what to think of it. Walter's friend's mom called me. She wants the boys- my boy, her boy, and a few of her boy's friends- to help set up their pool. Which is cool, you know, Little Red Hen. In return, she wants to take them to an amusement park for the day... as payment for helping. and she wants to know if I am ok with that. and this is where I am confused because I don't know.

Am I ok with him helping set up the pool? Of course.

Am I ok with him going to an amusement park with them? Absolutely.

Am I ok with the amusement park being a reward for helping set up a pool that he will spend time in this summer anyway? ...I'm not so sure.

It makes me uncomfortable because I want my boys to learn the value in helping just because someone asked. I want them to know that you do something for someone else because you can, because they asked, NOT because you will get something out of it. I want them to know that you don't always get a reward for doing the right thing, the reward is in the doing.

The friend's mom's goal lesson is just as important- working for what you get. Earning something they want.

The first woman we lived next to here taught me that I can't deny them a reward for helping. It didn't matter how small the job, she found a way to reward them even though I strictly forbade monetary rewards. She would give them candy, cookies, soda... the older ones, she'd slip them $10 and tell them not to tell their mom.

With the older ones, it took a while but we finally got to the point that when I said, "hey, this person needs..." the first question was not, "what am I going to get for it?" It got to the point to that when the tornado hit Oklahoma, Thing1's first thoughts were not for himself, even if his job had not required him to, he would have been one of the first people asking what he could do. Last week, the neighbor dad needed help with his pool, all he said was, "I need help with..." and both Thing2 and Walter jumped up with no questions.

The purpose in the lesson in helping because you can is not to punish them by denying something given back in appreciation. I guess the trick is teaching the balance between selfish and selfless. I guess allowing them to take a reward is just as important as teaching them not to expect it. So, yeah. I guess I'm ok with it.


  1. That is something we struggle with too. My kids want to know what they are getting out of it. It enrages me so. My oldest is doing odd jobs to pay for his church camp as he does everyyear, however i cant get him to do one single chore at home without torturing myself. yet he's chipper and hard working doing odd jobs to pay for camp. So the new rule at our house, if your chores are not done you do not get to go ta a paying job for camp.

  2. That's one of the hardest things to teach but I think they all get it in the end. Heck, Bug tried to take advantage of the points system we had in place for him and would do things depending on the "points" he'd get for it. We quickly met with the behavioral specialist to fix that. But yeah, doing good for others always ends up in a reward - an emotional or actual reward. Hopefully they prefer the emotional over the actual.

  3. If the reward is something that builds a relationship, I am OK with it. If it's a food reward, I am not OK with it, because that interferes with my son's struggle to comprehend natural hunger cues. I think it's awesome to build something together, then go somewhere to celebrate a group achievement. Count your blessings - you have terrific friends.

  4. I used to worry a lot about how and when to reward. So many important lessons and so many pitfalls lie in wait! How do you make sure your kids get the lessons and avoid the pitfalls?? It used to make me dizzy!

    Then I made a decision to stop worrying about it and just be a vocal example of what I hoped they'd learn. In truth, my boys do very much without getting any kind of real tangible reward: get up early, help around the house, play with the dogs, mow the lawn, eat their veggies, etc. There are plenty of rewards in these endeavors, but they're the kind we parents have to highlight often if we want our kids to see them and appreciate their real-ness. So I point stuff out all the time and make sure to BE the kind of hard worker and helper that I hope they will choose to be, while consistently pointing out how good it feels for me and why!

    My boys used to roll their eyes at me, but I'll tell ya... it seems to have mostly worked! And thank-goodness for my husband who I need to remind me that it's important to teach our boys also to EXPECT rewards in order to learn how to comfortably expect to be paid what they're worth as adults! Which, in truth, is something I still struggle with. Helping and working for the sake of how it feels to be useful and kind come easy to me, asking for a paycheck (and even accepting them when I used to have regular jobs!) has always been terribly uncomfortable!

    So, while I teach my kids about feeling the value in being selfless, my hubby is helping us all learn to also see our value and expect rewards!

    I hope Walter has a blast helping with the pool set up and hanging out with friends at the amusement park! I bet the boys will have even more fun feeling like they earned it. Maybe that can be one of the things you highlight to make it an awesome lesson!


  5. It seems to me that Walter has already learned that you help just to help and not expect a reward if the neighbor man came and asked for help with...and he jumped right up to go..just sayin I think you already did a wonderful job on raising him to do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do... :)