- If I finish this blog post before my daughter finishes her homework, tomorrow I get to send her vegetables instead of a few pieces of Halloween candy in her lunch.
- If she finishes her homework first, she gets ice cream for dessert (and Halloween candy in her lunch tomorrow).
I would feel bad about making this sort of deal - after all, isn't motivation and perseverance part of what homework is supposed to be teaching her? But let's be honest. My kid's homework isn't exactly thrilling, and she's easily distracted by pretty much everything. Too much noise, too little noise, people nearby, no people nearby, needing a sharp pencil, admiring how sharp her pencil is now, having to go to the bathroom, having to hide in the bathroom to use the iPad she's not supposed to have until after homework is done, needing a snack, needing a different snack, needing even more snacks because meals are something other people eat ... all of those things derail her from the "let's finish your science notes in less than two hours" train.
It's handy to have something I can say in place of the usual, "Are you actually working on your homework?" I already hate the sound of my voice asking that question, and it's only November. One of us is going to explode if I have to keep that up until June. But not keeping on her back just leads to procrastination, bedtime meltdowns when she panics about what she didn't accomplish, and bad grades that give her headaches and stomach aches and a bad case of "I don't want to go to school."
For some reason, it's less annoying to both of us for me to say, "Wow, you really don't want ice cream tonight, do you?" every time I see her staring at a wall. She bolts back to the table and gets back to work when ice cream is involved, let me tell you. "Which kind of veggies should I send tomorrow?" is a little more passive-aggressive, but I'm willing to go there if it gets the assignment done. And as a side benefit, trying to keep her motivated means I actually have to write a post, which I probably would have blown off otherwise.
Homework isn't the only area where I'm using a carrot-and-stick approach. Another fun motivator I instituted this year: If I have to drive her the 30 minutes to school (because she dawdled and left home too late for the 5 minute drive to the bus stop) I will spend the entire drive to school lecturing her about all the human sexuality stuff her school doesn't cover in health class. If we leave the house in time to make the bus, I keep my mouth shut and we listen to the radio.
I made it through female anatomy, male anatomy, consent, and non-heterosexual relationships before she realized I was serious and I wasn't going to run out of material any time soon. I even had a video all loaded up on my phone to supplement one of the discussions - it was epic.
I have also offered to send pictures of her (very obviously uncleaned) bathroom to the mother of the boy she liked, and threatened to send photos of her carelessly discarded clothing to her grandmother so she knows not to buy Liza any more nice outfits. I'm kind of a bitch sometimes.
But hey, if it works, I can play the Evil Mom card occasionally. I certainly wasn't getting anywhere with my other approaches. Maybe eventually I'll figure out some way to motivate my child that doesn't involve threats of embarrassment and/or withholding treats. In the meantime, I'm hoping she gets lazy in the mornings again. I don't want to have all those pictures of STD symptoms saved on my browser for nothing.