Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On Bribery and Other "Bad Parent" Tactics

I remember having a conversation several years back with a friend of mine regarding paying children for good grades. She was telling me the story of a friend of hers who made some very good cash for getting A's.... I remember thinking that not only was this child incredibly spoiled, but how sad that she would never learn the satisfaction of realizing a goal simply because it was important to her and not because she would be rewarded tangibly for it. The intrinsic reward should be enough.

Now, that, my friends, was judgmental, naive thinking from someone who wasn't yet a parent, and only saw things through the eyes of her own value system.

Because, I can now tell you, not all children place a value on getting an A. For my son, things like making sure his face is not covered in mustard, bbq sauce, or raspberry jam - that's not important. Finding a place for his shoes and clothes that he removes from his body to go someplace beyond the bonus room floor - that's not important. Taking the time to double check his answers on a reading comprehension test - just not important. What is important is getting it down fast so that he'll be able to move on to his own choice of activities.

This blatant disregard for particularly the accuracy in test taking is a foreign concept to me. Growing up, it was ALL about doing my best - for my own self-satisfaction, knowing Michele was doing her best, so a half percentage out of competition, and finally, so that the teacher and my parents knew I was doing my best. It was VERY important to me - as evidenced by the stress dreams I still have. But, here I am with my son, who brings home a reading comprehension test that has a D minus grade and instead of being devastated, he says with a sheepish grin, "I'm sorry". As I am furious (because I know this kid is capable and intelligent enough), I try to calmly go through the test with him, the multiple choice questions that have you correctly define the meaning of a vocabulary word based on the context of the passage - and the kid actually LAUGHS as I ask him why he answered what he did. NO, he's not being disrespectful - he's just being Brayden - and despite all logic, I find myself cracking a smile as I realize this kids is wired SO DIFFERENT from me. I would have been near tears, feeling stupid for my mistakes - he's trying to play with everything around him, not at all concerned.

So, what to do with that? He genuinely cares about making us happy - and certainly doesn't want to repeat third grade (which won't happen - he's doing fine in the big picture, but it hasn't stopped me from threatening). But, he is a kid who only focuses when it is important to him - and getting him to grasp that importance - sigh....

So, that has led us as parents to ponder the vast array of options we have before us. Of course, first on the table was stripping him from his electronic vices (computer, wii, etc.). But, the thing about Brayden - being the otter he is - he'll just find something else inventive to do - probably centered around bugging his sister. That equals = increased torture to mom. So, we decided that we will use this as an opportunity to practice - we've begun assigning handwriting pages for him to do when he forgets things, etc. - So, as we wanted to let the punishment fit the crime, we headed down to Learning Palace and purchased a comprehension book with just the same kind of set-up as the ones at school. (This is not an isolated situation folks, we've been tackling this since October). In Sunriver, he was told that if he didn't get the short test 100% right, he'd practice on another one. Harsh, huh? But, you know what - he took his time- and yes, 100%. Yes, the kids IS bright, IS capable - and this time, DID see the importance.

So, this week is the third grade state testing on the computers for - you guessed it - reading comprehension. Apparently, the kids have 3 chances to take it and pass it - and fortunately, I happened to be in the classroom at just the right time yesterday to hear about all of this. Mr. Gulka explained how it would be much more advantageous to try really hard the first time, to take your time, double-check, and therefore pass it so you can have computer free-time while the other kids keep trying.

Oh, did we drive that point home with Brayden last night. He'll be earning 10 marbles (we have a marble jar that when full turns into a dollar) - if he comes home and tells me he TOOK HIS TIME and DOUBLE-CHECKED everything. And, yes - if he passes on the first round - there will be something big as a reward. AKA - Bribery.

In the big picture, we're hoping Brayden will see that he can totally do these things and it's fun to get the accolades and self satisfaction of an "A" on projects/tests. But, for the here and now - we're doing whatever it takes. Please don't judge us......


Anonymous said...

Not judging, just nodding my head!

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, then you are obviously very wise: willing to try new things and respond to your son as an individual. Keep up the great work.

HollieHobbie said...

Not judge you? Not judge you?! haha! Of course, I won't, especially since I just said to our babysitter while in Cancun (Molly's pre-school teacher) "If there is something fun going on next week and Emma wants to stay home from school, it is okay."
Emma says "I think I want to go to Molly's special day today" I say "Okay, good idea"
There is so much more to learning than the book work. I think you are doing great. And you have convicted me a bit to pay attention to grades etc.
Oh another example to make you feel good and not judged (because everyone will be judging me...haha)
For our WASLs, the state tests, we have been told that the kids do better with the more calories/sugar they get, so I told Emma that and she (and I) are looking forward to maple bars, candy, soda etc haha

Colie said...

It's interesting working with people (your - my children) who are so different from ourselves. I said so many things before I was a parent that I look back on and blush about. It's about learning and growing as people and as parents. Great job drawing out that potential in Brayden!

StephieAnne said...

Isn't parenting a humbling project? Thanks for all of your encouragement. And, FYI - did Brayden double-check his answers? No, he forgot...... (ahhhhh!). But, he did say he tried and took his time...... So, no marbles, but the verdict is still yet to come if that big reward will happen if he passes on the first round.....