A wise woman (and more experienced mother than I) once told me “there’s no harm in bribing your children.” I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that theory, so instead of straight bribery, I try to justify it as an “earning system.” I don’t pay my children to keep their room clean. But I do allow them to earn stars for a clean room each night before they go to bed.
They’re just learning to count, so numbers are still somewhat arbitrary. I’ve promised them that once they earn 20 stars, they’ll earn a surprise. Here’s the dilemma …
The goal here is keep their room clean enough that I can actually identify which toys they play with on a regular basis, and which they’ve outgrown. It’s hard to tell when their floor is knee-deep with toys. So, as we prepare for the big pre-Christmas purge, I’m trying to get a read on the toys they actually enjoy.
The challenge is deciding what I should surprise them with when they earn the elusive star number 20? My initial thought was … a toy. On second thought, that seems a bit counter-productive. I also don’t want to reward them with sugary sweets, because let’s be honest … earning comfort food and treats as a reward for responsible behavior is somewhat less-than-responsible. (I speak from experience. I have what you might call a love-love relationship with chocolate. I love to eat it, and it loves to stay with me. Not a habit I want to foster in my children.)
The bigger challenge is how to entice them to keep up with the challenge after the first reward has been earned. Because, frankly, I really enjoy walking across their room with my feet touching the floor. What non-material reward would keep my children motivated enough to keep their room clean?
The obvious choice is just giving away all of their toys so there’s no challenge left to ponder. But that doesn’t exactly provide for the physical and cognitive development these toys have been so specifically engineered to promote (or at least well-marketed to promise).
Seriously. I have 17 more stars to come up with something really fabulous. Your ideas are welcome …