Here’s a funny little parenting gem of a problem!
Our daughter has always wanted to take dancing classes. After years of looking around for a class that wouldn’t damage her self esteem and self image, we settled on a highland dance class, which turned out to have an amazing teacher and a great location. We were thrilled.
2 weeks in, our daughter decided she didn’t want to do it anymore. It was hard, she said, and she felt embarrassed. Meanwhile, we knew she hadn’t practiced and that it was only going to get worse unless we turned it around for her. I know she wanted us to tell her she could quit and quite frankly, we were tempted as it never feels good to force a child to do something against their will. It never works anyway, as if they don’t want to learn and it becomes struggle they won’t learn. However, as a homeschooling family we are aware of discipline and the temptation not to complete something and push yourself that extra mile. How do you find the balance between passing on a useful tool, such as self discipline and yet stay in that feel good place? If we had told her she could quit, we knew she wouldn’t feel good after. She would feel like she had failed and couldn’t do something she’d always had interest in. she would also feel that she had let us down as the classes had been paid upfront (which didn’t matter, but she would think it did)
After much thought we realized that the learning of self discipline was too important, and yet feeling encouragement and fulfilment in the class was important too. Having another incentive, a sweetener in the deal, became the logical next step. And so, against all parenting logic, but following our hearts, we told her if she completes the course, and practices daily with me, at the end of the term we will give her 15 dollars.
Her perspective soon changed, and we started to look for other positive aspects of the course that quickly made her feel better about the next 6 weeks. Not only that but her younger sister asked for a challenge and lesson in self discipline… for the cash of course.
Bribery is often frowned upon, but the truth of the matter is that for children it can give that extra incentive with a feel good edge. It inspires them to push themselves, and the satisfaction that they receive after is an extra bonus. It stops the Forced issue and makes it proactive.
Yes, I like bribery. It reminds them that at you always get something out of something and helps shift something that can become a spin factory, full of self esteem issues and self torture, to an inspired opportunity for growth.
So our daughter will be trying her hand at dance class this year, and by Christmas she’ll be able to buy herself something pretty as a reward.