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I don’t believe in bribes – unless they work

Submitted by on Wednesday, 15 September 2010 No Comment

I don’t pay for grades, despite some scant evidence that it can work in some situations.

I don’t pay for goals – that would counteract the “you’re part of a team” message I’m trying to drum into Big Guy’s skull in particular.

No, sir, I don’t do bribes at all – wink, nudge. I do “incentives for a good job.” It’s sort of like school on the commission system, and it happens to work with Big Guy. Or, at least, it has the past two years when he’s struggled to keep quiet in class.

I’m hoping it will this year, too, as he faces the challenge of learning to complete work where the instructions are considerable more complicated than last year’s “see problem, answer problem” questions.

The magnitude of his struggle hit home again last week, as I reviewed the work returned in his folder. I sorted the papers into two stacks, and the spectacular pile was just as high as the abysmal one. I’m not the sort who thinks my kids have to be the best at everything - in fact, I realize the impossibility of that – but clearly his “girl with the curl in the middle of the forehead” performance indicated something was going on.

That something, of course, is that he’s simply not paying attention a good chunk of the time. Even on basic equations, he’ll sometimes skip around the page and forget to go back and finish all the work.

Just as his handwriting has improved dramatically this year – it’s still not gorgeous, but at least it’s legible  – I realize that time will take care of much of this new issue. But just as he continued to practice writing while he waited for his fine motor skills to improve, he can get better at following instructions while that “focus” area of his brain remains under construction.

So we constructed a bribe an incentive program to motivate him. Complete all his work for a week and he’ll be eligible for a new Lakers jersey. Make it two weeks and the long-coveted Ryan Newman T-shirt will be his.

To be honest, he was going to get those things anyway. I’d already ordered a Kobe Bryant uniform to replace the one he got when he was 5, and the Newman shirt was on its way, too, now that they finally were available in a size he wouldn’t swim in.

I won’t tell him that, though. Let him think he earned them, as long as he doesn’t think they’re bribes.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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