Encouragement vs. Rewards

I need to put a sign around Samu’s neck that says, “Do Not Give”. Either that or dress him up like Shrek’s Puss n’ Boots so folks know that his pleading eyes and innocent smile are just his conning devices to get over on them. If he’s offered a reward – he’ll do anything. As a matter of fact, he’s actively searching for Avonte Oquendo, the missing autistic teen, not because he’s worried about the child but¬†because he wants the reward money.

My son – the six-year old bounty hunter.

Honestly, I don’t know how he got that way – I don’t bribe my kids, even in tough situations. Say if we were invited inside the Bronx Zoo’s monkey house, I still expect them to be well mannered – not climbing the walls and flinging poop at people. Of course, reality is they WOULD be climbing walls and flinging poop and if they¬†didn’t, Samu would surely ask me for two-hundred dollars as a reward for refraining. That’s his going rate right now, two-hundred dollars. If he manages to find the missing teen, he’ll raise his fee, no doubt.

It doesn’t matter because I’m not paying him. One, because I’m broke and two, he’s lucky I don’t beat his ass for extortion.

While I understand the importance of rewards and praise, I have to take into account that achievements also have standards. I’ll tell them it’s great that they finished their homework in a timely manner but if it looks like they wrote it with their left foot, I’ll make them rewrite it. Oh, yes – call me Mommy Dearest, but what’s the point in writing a letter if nobody can read it?

Besides, when they bring home a comment from their teacher how their work has improved, their pride shows and I know it was worth being the handwriting gestapo.

Experience is the best teacher and so in teaching them the value of encouragement vs. rewards, I had them cheer on the runners of the New York City Marathon last Sunday. I explained that the marathon is about the distance between our house and Legoland in Yonkers. They were impressed but what shocked them was the thought that all those people ran the marathon just to do it – and not win a prize.

“Can’t they at least get two dollars?” Samu asked.

Why they get two dollars for running a marathon when he gets two hundred for passing an audition is beyond me. Bounty hunter. Extortionist.

After seeing the marathon runners for themselves, however, I think they see achievement in a less materialistic sense and a better light than before. Perhaps encouraging them to make fart noises through a big plastic trumpet and screaming at the top of their lungs when the runners went by had something to do with it. I just hope somebody finds that missing kid soon.

The Extortionist
The Extortionist
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