A couple of weeks ago my oldest daughter, who is nearly 5 years old, came downstairs to let me know that she cleaned her room and made her bed without me telling her. I was so proud of her taking the initiative to do it herself and was glad that all of the time that I’ve spent with her teaching her how to do these things were finally starting to pay off.
I gave her a big hug and told her that I was proud of her for doing it all on her own. She said thank you, then asked if she could have a piece of candy.
“For what?” I asked.
“For cleaning my room all on my own,” she replied.
I admit that I’ve given her pieces of candy before for cleaning her room. Sometimes it’s a bribe, and sometimes it’s a reward. It’s something that I’m far too guilty of in order to give my children an incentive to do something that they don’t necessarily want to do. It wasn’t until that moment that she stood in front of me expecting something I saw the effects of my bribery and rewards.
It’s a fine line between me knowing when my kids deserve a reward for their actions and when they don’t. But while rewards can be a good thing in certain situations, I never want my children to think that they need to get something in return for all the good things that they do. With anything in life, we should want to do good for others because we know it’s the right thing to do, not because we know there is a piece of candy waiting for us at the end.
I wake up every day striving to be the best parent and role model for my children. I’m learning as I go, as we all are. Sometimes I stumble along the way, and that’s okay. Just as my children are learning from my actions, so am I.
“You don’t need a piece of candy for cleaning your room,” I replied to her. “Sometimes we do things because we know they have to get done. I am proud of you for taking the initiative and doing it all on your own.”
She fussed for a little bit before finally giving up and moving on to the next thing for her day. She’s made her bed every day since and hasn’t asked for anything in return. And that is a reward within itself.