It sounded good in theory and it worked for about two weeks. Then we started having meltdowns over having to pay someone. We'd remember to fill out the sticker chart some nights and not other nights. Other "jobs" would come up that were not on the sticker chart and the boys wouldn't do them. They argued that because it wasn't on the chart they shouldn't have do it.
As I was having a conversation with my boys about setting and clearing the table one night, I realized I was bribing them to do a job that just a necessary part of life. My reasoning went, "You must set the table to get a sticker on your chart. If you don't, then you have to pay me." It hit me, I don't want my kids to be setting the table because of what they will get out of it. I want them to set the table because they are part of our family and as a family we work together to get things done.
So the question I am working through right now...
How do I parent my children in a way that builds their inner person?
This is a work in progress for me as I work out what this looks like in my family. Yesterday I had folded laundry and brought it up to the boys who were in their room looking at books together. I set each boys pile on their bed and a groan escaped both of their lips. I simply said, "Hey, laundry is a team effort. We all make it. It helps me out and I feel loved and appreciated when we work together to get it done." I then left the room. One child immediately got up and put his laundry away. When he finished, I commented, "Wow! Thanks for putting your laundry away. How does it feel to know that you are part of our team? It means a lot to me that you helped out." My youngest overheard this conversation but his pile of laundry remained on his bed. Oh boy did I fight not battling it out with him or bribing him to put it away. I practiced self-control and left it. It stayed there through the afternoon, through dinner. Each time I walked by his room I bit my tongue and didn't say a word. Three hours later when I came up to check on him after his bath, he was putting his laundry away! No bribing, no yelling, no crying. My response to him was the same I had given earlier. A response that was designed to highlight the internal reward of putting your laundry away.
I learned something and so did my boys. I learned that part of building internal motivation in my kids means letting go of my need to control the time-table of when something is done and the way it is done. My boys learned that helping with the laundry is not about what external reward they are going to get but about the belonging and sense of satisfaction that comes from working together as a family to get the job done.
Building internal motivation in our children is a passion of mine. As I talk with parents and as I parent my own kids, I see it as one of our biggest jobs and hardest struggle. So often the bribe, sticker chart, or threat of punishment gets the immediate result that we want but the foundation it builds is faulty.
I am in the process of researching and writing an e-Parenting class on Building Internal Motivation in our Children. Head to the e-Parenting link to find out more information. Also, like Foundation Parent and Life Coaching on Facebook to be notified of upcoming classes. If you are interested in getting support now, I would love to work one-on-one with you or gather a group of like minded parents and we can do some group coaching sessions together. Schedule a FREE consolation to find out what services Foundations PLC offers that can best support you on your parenting journey!