Loading
Welcome to Babble,
Settings
Sign Out

Get the Babble Newsletter!

Already have an account? .

MENU

Let's Make a Deal

This will probably come as a shock, but the seven children in the communal household I share with my sister don’t always want to eat their peas/finish their homework/not write on the walls. In fact, more often than not . . . okay, always, they’d rather eat buttered pasta at every meal of the day/watch TV/write on walls. . . and books . . . and themselves. So we do what any enlightened parent would do. We bribe them. 

For my autistic nine-year-old nephew, Jonah, it means that he doesn’t get his favorite food, “ketchupandfrenchfries,” if he hits. For my seven-year-old niece, Erika, it’s the promise of two hermit crabs complete with all accouterments (Cage? Cocktail sauce? I’m not sure) if she completes a giant math workbook. My four-year-old niece, Hilary, and three-year-old son, Declan, are susceptible to the standby Eat Three More Bites of Chicken And You Can Have Ice Cream . . . You Call That A Bite? bribe, while my two-year-old son, Ronan, and his twenty-month-old cousins, Aaron and Gretchen, will do almost anything if you let them “read” a board book at the dinner table.

I know you’re not supposed to offer dessert as a reward for eating dinner, but with a son who’s just above the third percentile for weight, I’m more concerned about calories than lifelong eating habits. And I’ve witnessed too many late night breakdowns of a starving child after trying the ol’ “You don’t want to eat? Fine, don’t eat, but you’re not getting anything else tonight!” How do you tell a screaming twenty-six-pound three-year-old that he can’t have any food?

Of course, once you hop on the bribery train, it’s hard to get off. I soon realized that Declan would do anything for a piece of gum, or a TV show before bed, or an extra ten minutes of play before naptime. I fear I’m creating a monster. Because, let’s face it, bribery works. At least in the short term – like when I just can’t bear to play another game of Zingo, or I need another ten minutes of coffee time before I put him down for a nap, or when I absolutely, positively cannot get out of bed at 5:45 a.m. again.

But when does “incentive” become “bribery”? Or “blackmail”? When I see Erika rushing to finish her dinner so she has more time to work on her math problems, visions of hermit crabs dancing in her head, I have to wonder: Is learning for a the sake of learning different from learning for the sake of a hermit crab?

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterest
Tagged as:

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterest