I’m breaking a promise I made to my Dad about 10 years ago by writing this post – sorry Dad.
When I was a child I was ok at swimming. I didn’t mind it, I was fairly indifferent to swimming lessons but I went along to them and didn’t find it too difficult. My older brother had a different experience, he didn’t like swimming lessons – i’m not sure of the details but I think he was scared. Eventually, he overcame his fear and swimming lessons we not an issue. As a reward for his bravery my parents took him from Windsor into London and he got to choose a present in Hamleys. I think he chose subbuteo.
My keen sense of justice set alarm bells ringing. WHAT? HOW IS THIS FAIR? IT’S NOT FAIR!!!! I didn’t struggle with swimming and I didn’t get a reward. I can imagine that I went on and on about it quite a lot. In the end, a good 13 or 14 years later (I’m persistent!) my parents bought me a birthday present and before I opened it my Dad said that they were giving it to me on the promise that I would never, ever, mention subbuteo again! It was a pink ipod, back when ipods were way out of the budget of most parents for their children’s 16th birthday. I quickly agreed and very much enjoyed my present. I also promised to myself that I would never reward one child and not the other for overcoming adversity or doing something that they found especially difficult.
Like all things in parenting, when you put theory into practice, I found myself pursuing a train of thought yesterday that shocked me. Joni is almost three and is still not toilet trained. She has repeatedly told me she does not want to use the toilet, she is not interested. It is boring and feels irrelevant to her. So, my strategy so far has been talking about it, suggesting that she uses the toilet or the potty but allowing her to say no. I am taking her lead and will continue to do so. I do feel I have a responsibility to facilitate it all though and I began to wonder if a reward was the answer. In fact, in that moment I was so desperate I was imagining taking her to a big, fancy toy shop and promising her anything she wants if she would just use the
flipping toilet. WOAH. Hold up. No. I promised I wouldn’t do this? I promised I wouldn’t use large scale bribery and reward to make my child do anything, especially as it is likely that Wilbur won’t have the same problem and would therefore not get the same reward. So, yet again, what I thought I would do differs greatly from what I am prepared to do in reality.
Is bribery/reward a parenting technique that you use? Do you think it could mean that you unfairly treat each child? I’d love to hear what you think, as i’m still reeling from the shock of the lengths I would consider going to, despite my own experiences!