Monday, May 11, 2009

Spring Fever Cure #5: Fall for Your Own Trick

Sing, Spell, Read and Write gave me the original idea. They suggested prizes for winning games in their reading curriculum. Not only this, they actually sent some with the package to get us started. Eventually, we had to add to our dwindling stash of goodies. At some point, we decided we needed a new, larger treasure chest, and so we covered a nice box with wrapping paper. Of course, the boys did not get to see any of the prizes in the box. They had to close their eyes and reach in. Whatever they pulled out was a surprise. They were rewarded with stickers, balloons, erasers, gum, pennies, an occasional fancy pencil, individually wrapped pieces of candy, marbles (one at the time), stamps, and so forth. When they won a phonics game or an arithmetic game, they got a prize. It just spiced things up.

Later, I began giving out prizes for perfect papers. This meant the finished assignment had no errors on it. This super-charged my kids' motivation beyond anything I ever thought possible. It was astounding the lengths they would go to in order to earn a perfect 100 and, naturally, to compete with one another to earn the most prizes for the day.

I know. We aren't supposed to give out candy for school work. Learning should be it's own reward. But, for my kids, who hated written assignments in general, this added some badly needed "pizzazz" to what had become drudgery for us. And it sure beat the pants off requiring it from them like an old school marm with negative consequences waiting for them if they didn't do it.

My final slide into complete compromise -- you knew this was coming -- was to use it for spring fever. Yes, I confess. I started giving out prizes for each completed assignment that was done to a satisfactory standard (which usually meant no errors). Not only this, but we began setting up rewards for completed days and for difficult assignments: a trip for ice cream, a donut break, a rented movie, a board game, an outing to the park, sidewalk chalk, cookie baking, a trip to the dollar store. Each day, for about three weeks, we set up "prizes" before we started working, and then we fell for our own trick. We worked like crazy for the rewards we gave ourselves.

My children are now tall, young men who have successfully navigated college. Did this ruin them? In a word, no.

Instead, they learned how to motivate themselves. I have watched them do it over and over again. They set up a reward for themselves, work like madmen to achieve their goal, and then enjoy their "prize". They can push themselves to do all kinds of unpleasant, undesirable projects (which must get done), and even push themselves when they are tired and unmotivated, by implementing a reward system.

And here is the funniest thing of all. I have learned to do it for myself, too. Whenever, I have things to do that are not enjoyable, I set up a reward for myself and work toward the goal. "I will work so many hours or do a particular thing first, and then I will be able to enjoy ________ . "
I fall for my own trick. Every time.

Is your school tired? Try it.

Give out prizes. Fall for your own tricks. Why not?

1 comment:

  1. I love to treat myself--just as soon as I finish typing this Algebra lesson, I'm going to have tea and cake.


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