In aisle 3 at Woolies yesterday, a little girl was shaking a jar of hundreds and thousands into her open mouth. Her mum called out from the other end of the aisle. ‘Put the sprinkles down please Courtney and I’ll get you a cookie’. Welcome to the new frontier – reward parenting.
There was no response from the little girl so her Mum increased her bid. ‘C’mon… We’ll get you some snakes as well. You like snakes’. This satisfied both parties and the little girl relinquished her sprinkles in favour of a cookie and a bag of Snakes Alive.
In reward parenting, good behaviour is incentivised through offers of food, toys or money. Usually, some sort of chart and gold stars are involved and successful outcomes have been reported (at a cost to parents, obviously).
Watch: Classic mum phrases. Post continues below.
Of course, it’s all very unfamiliar to me. I was never able to extort my mum in this way. She didn’t subscribe to reward parenting. I just did the dishes, my homework and put the garbage out gratis.
After what I witnessed at Woolies, I wondered how my mum had gotten me to give up my jar of sprinkles without so much as a mention of a reward? Why the hell did I agree to wash the dishes after dinner without any kind of treat? Why did I take myself off to bed when Fat Cat came on the TV at 7:30 every night out without so much as a Curly Wurly for my troubles?
Kids nowadays get far more for doing far less.
Take my friend’s seven-year-old boy for example. Having been a bit indifferent towards reading his school readers, she employed some reward parenting to solve the problem, offering him a dollar for every book he read before bed. It’s like the MS Read-a-thon but instead of the money raised going towards helping people with multiple sclerosis, it’s almost exclusively spent on LEGO Ninjago at the end of each month.