Sunday, March 16, 2008

The latest parenting experiment

For several years before high school, K was interested in playing tennis on the high school team. He took group lessons a couple times a week. He attended a couple of summer tennis camps. He made friends with the high school tennis coach. He asked for tennis-related gifts. Then, after starting high school he lost interest. We dropped the private lessons last fall, but encouraged him to go out for the team in the spring any way.

Today, I ran into the high school tennis coach. He introduced himself and asked me why K had not come to the team's informational meeting a few days ago. I was surprised that there had been a meeting. But, I explained that K was going through a somewhat lazy phase right now. His school work is kind of erratic and he's not overly interested in anything. This is supposedly typical for high school freshmen, the coach informed me. I told him that I would talk to K about the team. He hoped that I would and said that K would probably be his strongest player if he decided to participate.

As I continued my workout, I hatched a plan that may help motivate K with his school work as well as encourage him to play tennis. In the fall, K tried to get us to agree to let him get a job. We said 'no' because we wanted him to really focus on the challenges of high school, at this point. Plus, I wanted to make sure he had the flexibility to play tennis in the spring. K is highly motivated by cash.

When I got home from the gym, I asked K why he had not gone to the informational meeting for tennis. He said that he had decided not to try out. I then told him what the coach had said about how valuable K would be to the team. He thought about it for a few minutes, and asked me when the next meeting/practice was. I told him and he said that he would go. I then made him an offer.

In that past, we have rewarded K for good report cards at the end of each quarter. Consequently, its a long time between payoffs for good effort. So, I decided to change the game a bit. If K plays on the tennis team and gets nothing worse than a C on any assignment in any given week (while maintaining an overall 'B' average) I offered him $20/week for his efforts, in addition to the $5/week base allowance he already gets. This got him VERY excited. He said that constant monetary incentive was a good motivator.

I pointed out that playing tennis would make it that much harder to maintain his grades. He concurred. I suggested that he would need to maximize the use of his free time by studying/doing homework after tennis while waiting for his ride home. He said that would work for most classes, but that he needs Internet access for his Civics class since he has to do a current events report every day. He then suggested that it would be helpful if we got a daily newspaper. Score! I liked the fact that he came up with his own reasonable solution to a challenge. So, I put in for a subscription to USA Today for the next 13 weeks, which coincides nearly directly with the end of the school year.

Wish us luck!


changejunkie said...

I'm stuck back on the $5 a week allowance -- how did you manage that??? We are at $13 a week allowance, with a $7 a week add-on for lunches, after-school snacks... Of course, M has to put 10% in savings and 10% goes to charity, but still... do you buy K games and stuff, or does he do that out of his allowance?

Kitten Herder said...

$5 is his bare minimum. He can earn $15, if he does all his household tasks without being reminded. Every time we have to remind him, he loses money. I think he's 'earned' the $15 about three times in the last year. He 'earns' $10 about once a month.

I write a check to school on the first of the month for his cafeteria account. A la carte lunch runs from $1.75 to $4. I send $88/month.

Up until this weekend, he had the ability to earn between $50 and $120 for his report card each quarter. B also pays K $10/weekend for helping teach martial arts classes at the YMCA. The past few summers he's earned a couple of hundred dollars working at a summer camp, and babysitting his cousins.

When we're out together, I sometimes buy him small things, but he never asks. Typically, he saves for what he wants. Recently, he purchased himself a new pair of skateboarding shoes. He did not NEED another pair of shoes; he just wanted them.

He's not really destitute. Now, however, he has the opportunity to be truly flush ... which he has long desired.

Summer said...

You've won half the battle with getting your son motivated. My son plays tennis and it does take a lot of time and cuts into homework but it's worth it. Tell him to keep up the good work.

briwei said...

Wow. Way to go. I bow to your superior skills. You tapped into his motivation to get him to do what you wanted him to do. Mother of the year!