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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cash for dance

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.

1 comment:

  1. Just an update on this post.
    A few weeks ago, the morning before dance, our daughter was in tears saying how much she hated going. With one look at her, her father and I knew we'd been wrong. Self discipline is great, but as parents we were taking a dangerous road teaching our child not to listen to her instincts and inner wishes. We told her no matter what she didn't have to do it. We asked her to consider going to that day's class before really decided. Afterwards she looked drained and tired, not the sign of someone doing something they would someday be passionate about. However, she told us she was going to continue after all. She said it wasn't that bad and was getting interesting. Although i don't think she'll be going back after christmas I was proud of her for really deciding, based on how she felt, not by what carrot we dangled in front of her.
    I learnt no matter what, we have to trust our children.