Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the price of rewards

I've just come across a great magazine for thinking mothers: Brain, Child. The latest issue has, among other stimulating essays, one by Kathy Gillen arguing against using rewards -- toys, ice cream -- to help children deal with difficult circumstances (i.e., life). The author notes that she needs to stop rewarding herself -- lattes, pedicures -- as well, not to model entitlement.

"Nobody wants hardship for a child, but amazing, life-altering joy can be found in even the dark corners of life. Teaching kids to embrace hardships without the aid of rewards can be the difference between understanding life and just muddling through it." Yes.

I suspect too that turning to treats to compensate for difficulties sends the message that we don't deserve suffering, reinforcing self-pity. Better to give compassion, suffering with another.

Now, Gillen "rewards" a child who's had a hard time at the doctor with "lots of hugs and rounds of Itsy Bitsy Spider." (Read it here.)

This is how our God, Emmanuel, comforts us in our troubles -- with his presence, not by distracting us from our pain with food or toys. I am grateful for this essay's insight, which reminds me that if I give John my presence, suffering with him in his pain, it will be easier as he gets older to teach him to turn to God instead of material comforts in hard times. Then, he will be able to share God's comfort with others to comfort them in their struggles (2 Cor. 1). Isn't that a far greater gift than a toy would be?


angie said...

I love how you say this magazine is for "thinking mothers". Ha!

This is always a challenge for me. There is a fine line between using rewards and flat-out bribery, but this brings in another angle...suffering with the child in the midst of hardship. Ugh. So hard to do, but necessary for "understanding life." And it really is a life-long process, even for parents!

beth - total mom haircut said...

I know! I LOVE Brain, Child, and I've subscribed to a LOT of magazines. It is by far my favorite though.

And I thought that was a really interesting debate. I'm very much one of those reward myself just for getting through very basic things kind of people, but it makes me wonder if that's a good attitude to have and to teach my kids.

Kristi said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I can't take credit for calling Brain, Child a "magazine for thinking mothers," Angie -- that's what the magazine calls itself.

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