No Parenting Experts Allowed Today, Please Come Again Tomorrow

Parenting experts can make me feel like a shoddy parent.  I’m sure that is not the intent of these childhood experts, but, to Good-Bad Dads (like me) that is an unintended outcome.

When I read about a discussion on The Today Show entitled, “Why parents should stop paying their kids to get good grades”, I cringed.

I have not opened up my wallet for my kids’ report cards yet this year, but I have before and might reward their scholastic achievements with some cash again soon.  The truth is, money as a reward seems to work well with my young kids.

In the past two days, in fact, I’ve paid my kids for various household help –

I gave my 9 year-old $2 for helping to drag tree limbs to the curb over the weekend.

Just yesterday, I paid my 3 year-old $3 after he reached the top of his reward chart designed to prevent tantrums.  

During the discussion on Today, though, parenting expert Amy McCready explained that I’m doing more harm than good – citing parents giving money as a reward for good grades as an example.

McCready says that in paying my kids, I am rewarding external (versus internal) motivation, creating a false standard for future successes, fostering entitlement and, potentially, de-motivating my other children who were left unrewarded.

She is probably right.  I tend to agree with her recommendations.

That said, in the midst of my third trip to the curb courtesy of Hurricane Matthew’s tree trimming service, I decided that I’d go against the experts.  I needed help and my 8 year-old kindly obliged.  A couple bucks seemed like fair compensation for his effort.

It’s not that I’m shunning all expert opinions.  Parenting experts do have great ideas that often do, in the long run, help parents raise great kids.  These experts, though, tend to downplay the idea that taking a shortcut today is acceptable as long as the future path stays intact.

So, while I agree with McCready that raising un-entitled, gracious, internally motivated kids is the ultimate goal, I won’t beat myself up over giving my kids some spiffs along the way to keep them interested or to lighten my load.

Parenting is a daily grind – many times leaving little room to evaluate short-term decisions against longer-term goals.  There are days where I am, admittedly, not up to the fight.  When I’m not worthy, it is okay to wave the white flag – as long as I plan to win tomorrow.

This doesn’t make me a bad parent.

It proves that I’m human- that I’m tired, sometimes distracted, sometimes overwhelmed but, at all times, trying my best.

Instead of feeling like I’m parenting in opposition to these experts, I should refocus my energy on:

  1. Making sure that my family is in “winning mode” more and “surviving mode” less.
  2. Balancing the principle-centered approach suggested by experts for long term success with the daily setbacks that are bound to happen.
  3. Taking the time to explain why any reward I provide to my kids is earned, not expected.
  4. Helping my kids recognize, be humbled by, and share their relative good fortune with others.

Parenting is a two-steps-forward and one-step-back business.  Moving forward all of the time is impossible, and a short detour does not change the destination.

I know my kids and our desired path – as well as any parenting expert knows data, medical studies and statistical correlations.

Even if I’m average today, I’ll be better tomorrow.

If I win tomorrow, my kids will not be part of any expert’s cautionary statistics.

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