Thinking about the ends v. the means...
My wife and I recently implemented a scaled reward system for our kids in order to improve the morning and evening routine. I.e. we wanted (nay, needed) a way to motivate the boys to get ready to go to school in the morning - as well as getting to bed at the prescribed hour at night - without all the fuss and whining and, hopefully, with less stress. So we implemented a weekly tracking and end-of-week reward incentive-based system. The ROEs are simple: if at the end of the week they successfully navigated the morning or evening session all five days, they each get a $1 per session (max weekly benefit = $2 / child). The scaled portion of the incentive system comes into play at the end of the month: if at the end of the month they achieved at least 75% total success rate (30 / 40 combined sessions), the child gets a book of their choosing (fortunately, they both love books so still a valuable reward in their eyes). We scaled the reward system because, as a family, we don’t value perfection, just progress.
Before implementing, however, my wife and I debated whether the ends justify the means. Specifically, are we rewarding our kids for actions that they should inherently be doing selflessly themselves? Is this a bribe or an incentive? Are we getting ourselves, and our boys, on a slippery slope of strictly reward-based actions? Will they forever stop being good unless we pay their ransom? It doesn’t appear that way, at least so far. We both concluded that short of loss of life or limb (e.g. there is no reward for NOT jumping on your brother’s spine) small reward systems paired with heavy positive reinforcement and long term goals yield pretty consistent results.
While it is still too early to determine how long the boys will remain engaged in this little experiment, over the course of one month, the system has worked fantastically and the rewards are valued by each child. Nobody is stressed in the morning (or night) and they’re both excited to get themselves ready and track their accomplishments on the calendar. Moreover, they’re learning about money management and planning; both are budgeting for some “significant” purchase in the future.
The line between “bribe” and “incentive” is gray and my wife and I both agreed that we have to be judicious in linking reward systems to behavior. So, yes, they are still required to keep their rooms in order, put laundry away, help out around the house, eat their vegetables and get daily exercise...with no bartering. The rest, at least at this stage and age, is fair game. Bring it boys.
By my last count, I've lived in 2 countries, 7 states, 15 different cities and have had 20+ address changes. Personally, I have never seen anything "wrong" with my personal statistics. Quite the contrary in fact, I relish - and if asked - will brag about them. Even so, the other night a student challenged my position by asking me, "what about your kids? Don't they want to grow up around the same friends?" I replied that they, nor I, know anything different. I've been on the move since I was kid, moving back and forth across the US and Mexico border and spending large swaths of time in Central Mexico as well.
So will all the relocating negatively affect my kids? Ben's bias is that "geographically rooted childhood tend to be more confident and happier, if less interesting." I lean more to what some of his readers comments: you can't change your childhood and it all comes back to parenting. My kids appear to get a great deal of joy from being able to send Christmas cards to 4 different continents and across 16 different states (when my wife pinned the addresses on a world map, their eyes lit up!). More so, whenever they start a new school, they seem to radiate when they are asked to present of picture collage of themselves. It's not too many elementary school kids that have experienced as much as they have in such a short time frame.
As I told my student, my kids grew up relocating with the military and now in Corporate America, the same stays true - they've only known this life. More importantly, my wife and I ultimately determine their relocating response: If our attitude radiates positivity, then so shall theirs.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)