Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bribing Children the Right Way

Is it ok to bribe children to do stuff? It probably depends on what "expert" you feel like reading, but we thought we'd not just bribe them but throw in a little extreme sibling rivalry on the top, which most "experts" would probably think is a bad idea. May hinder all that warm, squishy sibling love, right? My kids don't like the warm squishies, and I don't really like experts much, so we went for it!

We are trying to learn 4 new songs for our winter program, and at least a couple of them are quite difficult, and we were lacking in enthusiasm after pushing them through several new songs for the Christmas show. Combine that with a fairly heavy schedule right before the holiday, all while living very poor with no money for even the slightest indulgence after a very slow fall, and you get a lot of low moral, with little interest in reworking a new show at the last minute. Something had to be done.

I pulled out a $50 bill - which is like a million dollars in family band land, and waved it at them. I told them we were going to do a "winner takes all". For the next week, whoever practices the most, gets the $50. You must track your practice time. It must include at least half of the work on actual band music. The other half is anything goes if it involves their instruments in actual music ways. No using your violin for target practice. That doesn't count. Changing instruments is allowed, if anyone wanted to work on a different instrument. Mary, since she is only 8, gets a built-in handicap. She gets to credit herself an hour for every 1/2 hour she practices. The rest are teenagers, twice her size and capable of twice the practice.

Day one. Nothing. No one budged. Michael and I got really annoyed because we were sure our brilliant idea would work, but no one wanted to practice. Day two, all but one practiced finally, but something did happen that got the ball rolling fast. Mary got it in her head that she needed more ponies in her collection and wanted that $50, so she practiced double. By the next day when the older three realized she was actually in the lead and could end up wasting $50 on PONIES, the competitiveness hit hard.

Since then we've been fighting to find places for them to play for 2-3 hours each per day. This does NOT include group band practice, which doesn't count, and which accepts no whining about tired fingers.

A word of caution for anyone who tries this, you do end up with some weird side noises. Katie was still practicing at 10pm but got bored with the other stuff for the new songs, which she has now learned, then got bored with the other stuff she was trying to learn, and pretty soon I was hearing the theme to Harry Potter and Jack the Pumpkin King from Nightmare Before Christmas coming from the banjo.

Not sure if I can keep up that kind of a kitty each week though, so if you're waiting to hear Harry Potter completed and on stage, you may be waiting for quite some time.

In other completely unrelated news, the cat has fleas. I bathed her last night with flea soap because the twins were afraid to, and I'm pretty sure she tried to kill me. I was a bit afraid to go to sleep too. I only lived because she has a small brain and forgot about it.

Also, the other day marked 2 years on the road. Two years from that night we got stuck in the mud in Texas. Yay! ("Yay" for two years, not "yay" for mud.)

I'm supposed to be sewing new outfits. It's raining and there is no room to sew in the bus.

Sean just finished making a swimming pool for his spa on minecraft. I'm so proud.

So, there it is. Our exotic life.


  1. Wait..... who won the 50 bucks?!?!?

    1. Contest isn't over until Saturday afternoon! They're still fighting over the final prize!

  2. So now it is Monday...who won? What a great idea...I wonder if I can bribe myself to do something...have to think on that one.

    1. I forgot to say! Katie won. By last Thursday she was so far ahead that the rest sort of gave up. She put the money towards a fun, new coffee maker as a family gift.

  3. Congrats to Katie! I think bribing is a perfect form of motivation. Our oldest, who had no interest in school, or grades, and didn't even complain about summer school, turned things completely around when the prize was a car that he didn't have to use his "I've been saving for my first car since my parents were in Financial Peace University" account (so he was seven when he started). He's very proud of his 1991 red, stick, 240 Volvo sedan, which took FOREVER to find. Good thing we had time... They ended up going to Canon City to get it, but it was a bonding experience for them.

    So we let him empty his account and use the money for whatever he wanted. He ended up getting a PS3 and kabillion games for it. We got all those A's onto his transcript and he moved up in class ranking. Not sharing how low he was for his sake, but wow, a semester of straight A's sure moves you far. (Just for the record, it took him three semesters to earn his car. Plus the summer school class, which started it all.) BRIBERY WORKS and I'm a total fan of it.
    Tina @ Life is Good