Step 2: Challenges in Establishing a Reward System
For most families, arranging the reward side of a home program is pretty straightforward. Still, there are a number of concerns that can arise that aren’t so obvious. To assure you have support in thinking through any complications in your own family, I have included a number of examples of questions raised by other families, all focused primarily on the reward side.
We developed a program and started it, but our ten-year-old Abby just isn’t interested enough in any rewards to make it work. What can we do?
Generally each of us is willing to complete a task if the reward meets a need that is important enough. People even go to war and put themselves in harm’s way to protect what they hold dear. Therefore the challenge is in determining what those things are that Abby values most.
Imagine that you are chatting with colleagues during your coffee break when a recruiter comes in asking for people to work on a job for her company. All of the workers building a skyscraper downtown have just quit to work overseas. The project is in a crucial stage, and because the company is offering top pay, several of your group express interest. But when the recruiter mentions that the job requires walking along steel girders on the 30th story to carry supplies to other workers, interest wanes. The recruiter senses this and states that the pay will be $75 an hour with time-and-a-half for overtime. Some of the group groans at passing this up, but none is willing to take the job. Again the recruiter ups the offer, this time to $150 an hour. Would you be willing to take on the job of carrying supplies along girders far above the ground? Is there any amount of pay that would entice you to do so?
I actually have presented this little fantasy to many parent classes and found that typically if the promised pay went high enough, some parents said they would be willing to accept the job while most would not consider the job for any amount of pay. There are two points to be made from this.
There are some tasks that we are unwilling to undertake no matter what the incentive is. For example, surely none of us would intentionally endanger our children for any amount of reward.
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In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time.
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Other than for extreme actions that are too dangerous, too frightening, or too completely violates our values, most of us will attempt to meet challenges if enough incentive is provided. For example, a girl who always gets up late for school and who can earn a ticket to a rock concert by being ready to leave on time is very likely to be in the car long before she needs to be.
Thus, children are no different from adults in this regard, but they vary widely in how interested they are in particular choices and opportunities from those eager for anything novel to those who seem content with a few of the same old things. Since Abby seems to fit into the latter category, your challenge is bigger, but it still is to determine what will serve as an incentive for her. Meet the challenge by consciously observing her interests and how she spends her time. For example, does she like certain sports, watch a particular television program, or listen to certain kinds of music? With the answers in mind, think about what you might offer that fits with what you observed. Would she be interested in a ball to fit her sport, a toy to match a favorite television character, or a CD of a favorite singer? Or maybe she has a school friend who lives far enough away that she needs a ride to see her and you could offer a ride to the friend’s house as a reward.
In addition to these ideas, remember that many children are especially eager to earn special time with parents, particularly if they are allowed to specify the activities. Here is an example of how you might offer such a reward:
Planning a Sunday outing for the family (within two weeks). You can plan for up to three hours for an activity within a 30-mile drive from home and which costs no more than $20 for all of us to participate. Also, Mom and Dad must approve the plan at least three days ahead of time.
If none of these ideas solves your concerns, keep looking for alternatives. If after diligent effort you are unable to find a reward to interest Abby, she may need professional assessment to determine whether she might actually be depressed. If so, after suitable treatment she will be more able to participate fully in your home program, and identifying reward choices will be easier.