Friday, February 12, 2010

Carrot and stick

My eldest daughter has been “forgetting” various parts of her homework lately. One day it’s the math book so she can’t do math homework, the next it’s her folder in which the entire homework packet resides.

And mostly I think she really does forget these various items. The girl has a complicated life: two homes, two teachers, YMCA aftercare three times a week, and the dance studio four times a week. She’s bound to forget some things some of the time.

Case in point, it’s not just homework. I recently checked out her school’s lost & found and discovered not one or two of her sweatshirts, but four! Plus a lunchbox. A quick check at the dance studio a half hour later uncovered another sweatshirt.

Obviously, Hansel and Gretel have nothing on her.

But missing homework has been increasing lately, and we have to wonder if we’re getting played.

My husband and I have been dissecting discussing the issue lately. We’ve been debating the ol’ carrot and/or stick approach.

Which do you go with? The enticing carrot? Or the mighty stick? Or do you employ both -- dangle that juicy carrot in front of the mule while whipping him viscously from behind?

My first reaction is to use the stick, as I tend to parent using threats more than bribes. Not something to necessarily be proud of, but hey, it’s the truth.

My husband seemed to agree in this case.

But past experience with this daughter has proven this method less than effective.

So I’m adding the carrot. I’ve not tried an organized “reward” system since trying to potty train the girl, which was a protracted, agonizing process I don’t ever want to repeat, but she’s older, and there’s no urine involved, so I’m giving it another shot.

But I’m not ready to give up the stick, at least a small one. And anyway, said husband would not go for it. “What part is the stick?” he kept asking the other night.

So the carrot and the stick, that’s my plan. Hopefully it's the right carrot.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh, I love the comic.

Good luck with the homework project. She's no dummy -- homework's a drag!

But hey, at least it's not pee.


thinking of you in Central PA said...

sounds like she has too many sweatshirts and not enough cold weather :~)

poor girl...she might grow up to be me!
I would say the incentive to get a star for the day when everything is remembered which could earn you a chance to pick the Saturday night viewing option may go a long way but it might help if she sees the "natural consequence" of not having her work...lower grades and/or repercussions at school. That helps get you out of the loop and may be a better lesson. (plus..DO NOT buy anymore sweatshirts)
I'm no expert but my 14 yr old does much better when I put the stick down...although my head hurts from the wall banging and my tongue might need stitched together by the time he graduates from high school.
Keep us posted :)

Anonymous said...

how about carrot cake

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I sometimes offer my kids a dime per item to bring home all their crap from the lost and found. It's amazing how many jackets and sweatshirts suddenly turn up! Mine are also both very forgetful about homework lately, I just threaten to have a meeting with their teacher about their lousy work habits and they miraculously remember it all the next day. I can't tell you how many homework folders we've made and treasured and eventually lost. If it gets really bad, I'll set a "no computer until you catch up" agreement. The tricky thing is that they know how I feel about homework and that I will often let them delay doing it if we have something else going on, so they've grown accustomed to being okay with it being late. The school is supportive of this though, so as long as it eventually gets done, everyone is happy. Except the sucker doing the fractions, I imagine.


Kathi D said...

I know kids aren't dogs (but some of you poor people can't have dogs so you have to settle for children). Nonetheless, we have learned that the carrot approach works much better for dog training. It's hard (REALLY REALLY REALLY HARD!) for me to have the patience to do it that way sometimes, but by actual practice, our pups learn faster by reward than by punishment.

Or, as a grizzled old guy with perfectly behaved working sheepdogs told me once, years and years ago when I asked how he taught them to do all that: "I just catch them doing the right thing and praise them for it."

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Yes, I recently read an interesting press release that supports the carrot approach, for younger children, at least:

I would think this would include your dogs too, Kathi, even if you do think they're smarter than the average 8 year old kid :-)

Rita.the.bookworm said...

Yeah, time and time again, science and experience support the carrot. Positive reinforcement. It has a better success rate than punishment.

But... to be honest, your kid sounds perfectly age appropriate. That doesn't mean that you just let it go, but it means that this is kind of how this age is for that big heap of kids in the middle of the bell-shaped curve. There are some really anal-retentive, OCD, perfectionistic types who get all their stuff in on time, but they're that little part to the right of the big bump in the curve.

It's just a combination of reminders, reinforcement for the behavior you like to see and patience (on your part). It will get better over the next couple of years as she starts to see the intrinsic rewards for remembering stuff (getting good grades becomes more important, she starts to realize that life is easier when you just get it done, and so on).

Good luck with it though, it sucks, I know, I'm in the same boat with my middle one right now.