Thursday, 2 March 2017

Footloose - Motivating Kids With Rewards

When I was in middle school in the late 1980's/ very early 1990's name brand clothing was EVERYTHING, particularly at my suburban Etobicoke school.  My parents didn't subscribe to the same brand of cool as my classmates and most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my preppy older sister.  My parents priorities were getting us fed and saving for post secondary education for three kids, so they'd never drop the same amount of coin on a Club Monaco sweatshirt, or whatever else was the flavour of the week, especially since I was still growing.

One day I came home to a pair of brand new women's Nike Air runners in the front hallway of our house.  They were my mom's, but just the same I was smitten, we were practically the same shoe size after-all.  After hours of me playing dress-up with my mom's shoes like I was five instead of 13 and begging for her to let me wear them to school, just once, my parents cut me a deal.

I've always been the least athletic of my siblings and my dad was always looking for a way to inspire me to find something active to fall in love with.  My parents told me that if I jogged, an intended purpose of running shoes, at least 25 times over the next two months the shoes would be mine.  I was motivated and I ran, a lot, because I wanted those shoes!

In just over six weeks, I "earned" the shoes.  I went for maybe three other jogs that year, all in my new kicks, and most of them related to my dad hounding me to go for a run and practically begging me to "Just Do It".  As an adult I get how frustrating this must have been for my parents, and I understand why they did it.  Falling in love with a sport can lead to a life-long healthy habit.

The best kid response to my new running habit

I didn't run again, aside from gym class, for years.  I took up running "for reals" in my first year of university as a measure to combat the freshman fifteen and then again in my mid-twenties when I ran my first 10KM (a Nike Sponsored run - I guess they still inspired me, over a decade later).  I picked up running again in January this year for the first time since before I was pregnant, and I've fallen back in love with it, only this time Nike isn't involved.

On the parenting front we've had trouble motivating Jack to work on his writing.  He'll barely sit through the Occupational Therapist prescribed five to ten minutes a day and a lot of the time he's just going through the motions to get us off his back.

Last week I came across a sold out Lego Toy he wanted and I bought it for him, but he could have it under one condition - he dedicate some real concerted effort on his writing and reading every single day for a week.  This toy, sits on top of a shelf in our living room and Jack can look at it and hold it, in all of its packaged glory, for one minute each day after he successfully completes his reading and writing assignments. His writing has improved dramatically, and it's only been a week.  It doesn't hurt that we write out words that are meaningful and important to him like Captain Underpants, Batman, C3PO, and Hulk, On Friday he'll have earned his toy and I can't help but think back to those running shoes.

I have no clue what next week will bring, and if or when I'll buy another goal toy to "dangle the carrot" right away to keep the progress going or not.  Maybe I'll tell Jack that he and I both need to start saving our money, something tells me I owe my mom a pair of retro Nike Airs.

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