Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Parenting Awards and Cookie Cutters

Yesterday I was reading the paper, actually, I browse through it and read stories with headlines that catch my eye. (My journalism teachers said having catchy headlines above the fold were important and apparently they were right, at least for this reader.)

I digress.

On Monday there was a syndicated column by a psychologist whom I respect and admire. Yesterday I discovered he would probably give me an "... Awfully Ludicrous Parenting Honor". Ouch. The only reason it's "probably" is because I haven't garnered media attention, which he says is a requirement as qualification for the honor.

What did I do? I pay my children for good behavior, specifically I have been known to pay them a dollar for behaving well in church.. This expert says that paying them for expected behavior "makes a mockery of teaching children to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do."

Whoops. Well, I guess he has a point. I do tell my children they should help pick up around the house regardless of whose mess it is because "it's the right thing to do" and "you're a member of the family."

I'm not mocking being good for goodness' sake. I embrace it and do it myself. We emphasize the common good and helping others. We try to teach the kids about respect for self and others and just being an all-around good person.

Sometimes though, when in a pinch, a little extra muscle in the form of very germ-ridden, specially imprinted paper helps. Call it "spin" but I consider the extra incentive positive reinforcement for behaving properly and it works better than, "If you don't behave, you're losing all your electronics for the day, week, month, your lifetime."

Just like everything, the experts may not have all the answers for every particular situation. The experts don't always agree, which just goes to show that there is more than one way to raise up a child. (The column I read yesterday was actually written in response to a column he had read by another parenting columnist about the values (pun intended) of paying for good behavior.)

Our kids aren't all cut from the same cookie cutter and neither are our families. While some things may be universal, temperaments and family dynamics are vastly different. I see it even within my own family. One child will feel the impact of losing a particular privilege far differently than another. When I try to make "the punishment fit the crime" I also take into account the motivation and motivators of the beastie in question, fair and equal treatment does not always equal identical treatment.

Because the star cookies and the tree cookies..I don't usually frost them the same either.

Prayers for wisdom through daily adventures, whether addressing the behavior of the kiddies or baking your cookies, one size doesn't fit all. Thankfully, God's love does.



  1. Oh how incredibly true!! My 3 girlies are all so vastly different, what works for one definately does not motivate the other. (except maybe as punishment, aka.. no justin beiber mp3's can be played for a week could be an incentive to behave for one, or a harsh punishment for the other..)

  2. Although I do agree with the author about paying for required proper behavior, there is a difference between Payment and Rewards....I see nothing wrong with rewarding good behavior however best motivates the child. I think the difference between paying/rewarding them, is if they expect the "xyz" to be given, it is a payment, like we are paid for a job...but if it is a reward, its only given occasionally and usually without advanced warning.

  3. We don't do allowances or payment for good behavior just because the sense of entitlement of this country never ceases to amaze me. However, like one of your readers said, I see nothing wrong with a reward, and as you said.......we all have to do what's best for our families and our children. That is the beauty of God's plan of parenting and raising children. We don't have to do it according to the experts. We just have to pray and ask for God's guidance and then do our best!

  4. So it's semantics then..reward has a different "feel" than payment? OK..I reward them sometimes for behaving well. I do think positive reinforcement works much better with my beasties and usually it's verbal praise but sometimes....