I bribe my kids to get them to read.
You can judge me if you want but that's ok. They are reading age-appropriate chapter books and all it's cost me so far is a Beyblade I bought for approximately $8.
I know what experts say: I've been hearing their advice since my kids were the size of poppyseeds in my uterus. You aren't supposed to bribe. You're supposed to get them to do things you want them to do because kids are supposed to listen to their parents.
Yet who doesn't operate better when they have an incentive? We work hard to get a raise or promotion. Heck, I go to Starbucks with the incentive of earning stars for free drinks. We all do it. It's how our brains operate. So why should there be an exception when it comes to kids?
My kids would rather play with their friends or on their iPads than read. They love when I read to them, and I do it every night, but they never take the initiative to read to themselves even though I know if they got into the habit they would enjoy it.
So I asked them straight out: what's it going to take to get you to read a book?
I negotiated with my youngest son (he's going to be a lawyer, no doubt), and we agreed that he could have a small toy or hockey card for under $10 if he read a book and typed a summary within a one-month deadline.
At first he complained he wanted a year, but I explained I was giving him the opportunity to earn 12 toys rather than one. The next thing I knew, he was nose-deep in a book! He finished it right away and we went online to order him a toy.
Now my other son wants in on the deal. We chose a book and he's going to get started today.
My hope is that once they are in a habit, the toy-buying deal will peter out. They'll love reading so much and the thought of buying toys will be replaced with buying books or checking them out of the library. They'll end up being so widely read. They'll help out in the library. They'll be elementary school scholars. They'll love reading for life.
Well, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. They've only read one book so far between the two of them, but I'm hopeful my plan will work. A few tips to consider if you're going to offer incentives:
- Think of an incentive that works for your child. Instead of a toy, maybe it's spending special time together, going for ice cream or seeing a movie.
- Write it down on paper. How many times have I forgotten what deal I've made with which kid. When it's on paper, we can refer back to it if either of us needs a refresher. And it's a good introduction to contracts for your kids.
- Use incentives selectively. If my kids make a mess, they have no choice but to clean it up. There's no incentive for brushing their teeth, doing homework or getting dressed each day. There are natural incentives (not having bad breath, not going to school in pyjamas) and these should work just fine. Use only when you need an extra way to boost behaviour.