A few nights ago, I went out for Mom’s Night Out with some friends from theater. (I know. The mind reels that I would do something so social. And I even enjoyed it!)
Besides our kids, we talked about politics, religion, and everything else you’re not supposed to talk about in polite conversation. It was glorious. But as I stumbled my way through a little bit of my journey and where I had landed: “I’m a bible-believing … No… A God believing … No… Not so much a Christian because I don’t like American Christianity … I like Jesus….” I realized I would, as is generally the case, do better if I wrote it down instead of trying to speak it.
So this is where I stand.
I’m a 45 year old refugee from a strict religious upbringing. I have since rejected just about everything traditional organized religion has to offer, and I don’t like the word, Christian. That part’s true. Too many people (DISCLAIMER! NOT all the people who claim the title… but too many) have made it stand for something really judgmental and hateful and ugly. If I absolutely had to choose a label, I kind of like Christ-follower, since I try to follow Jesus’s teachings (spoiler alert: Jesus was all about love), but in reality I’d choose no label at all. I’m just a girl who believes in a loving God, and thinks that Jesus was a really cool dude who has a lot to teach us.
The God I know (and his human form, Jesus), is not vindictive, or angry, or punishing. He is not hell fire and brimstone.
The God I know loves fiercely, with a deeper depth and a wider breadth than we can even comprehend.
The God I know loves ALL people. All races, all religions, all sexual orientations, all gender expressions. The God I know loves all people, but ESPECIALLY those who are maligned by the rest of society.
The God I know wants us all to love one another, to be kind to one another, to let people see us living out what we profess to be right and true.
But what about me? It’s nice and warm and fuzzy to believe in a loving God, but where’s my responsibility in all of this? I believe it’s no more simple nor complicated than this:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:35-40)
The God I know wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, welcome the strangers, heal the sick, and visit the marginalized.
“He’s on two different baseball teams. She’s on one team, but she also takes dance on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They both have music on Wednesdays. Friday is Scouts, Saturday is karate. Sunday is our one day off, but of course we have church and its activities afterwards. Oh, and Sunday evening services, too.”
I was on the receiving end of this speech recently, but it might not be verbatim. My head started spinning somewhere in the middle.
We are, as a society, obsessed with keeping our kids busy. Classes, activities, lessons. Keep. Them. Busy! In fact, we view it as almost a status symbol. “Wow, good for them!” we’ll say, as if it’s some commendable feat to continually be running from one activity to another.
The first thing I always wonder is, “Do the kids want to be doing so many things?”, followed quickly by, “Are they tired?”
And don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first person to to tell you to encourage your kids’ interests. Tegan (10) is currently in theater and volleyball. The boys aren’t in any organized activities at the moment, but they have in the past played on sports teams, been involved with Scouts, and taken various music and other lessons.
I’ll also concede that some of this has to do with personality. As a big introvert and homebody, keeping up with the schedule up above might well kill me.
But I still maintain that more than anything, kids (of all ages) need time to be kids. They need time to play. They need time to lie on their backs and daydream about knights and dragons and dinosaurs and what they want to be when they grow up. They need time to discover the 41 different ways you can entertain yourself with a stick. They need to splash unhurried through mud puddles. They need to spend long lazy summer afternoons with sand between their toes and ice cream running down their arms. They need time to think, to ponder, to play make-believe, to do nothing. Because all of the “nothings” in the world add up to a very big “something” when it comes to growing a grounded, resourceful, and well-rounded little human. They need time for themselves, time for unstructured play with their friends, time for dinnertime talks with Mom and Dad.
We see more and more kids and adults alike who are strung out, exhausted, anxious, and depressed… and is it any wonder? We glorify busy. We pride ourselves on running ourselves – and our kids – ragged.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can stop. We can take a breath. We can live in the right now, instead of keeping our heads mired in the act of running off to our next activity. We can make downtime just as important as gymnastic lessons. We can schedule in days for play. For exploring. For self-care. We can, quite literally, give our kids the gift of time.
So please, by all means, support your kids. If you have the resources, let them take that ballet class, bring them to karate, watch them learn to play the guitar. But never so much that the price you’re paying is the sacrifice of time for them to just BE.
I’ve been trying to listen to guided meditations in the morning. I do unstructured meditations sometimes too, but they tend to do more harm than good. I get too deep in the muck and the mire, and my brain takes me to dangerous little places. But the guided meditations are perfect, because I have someone else’s voice to continually pull me back to reality.
Lately I’ve been… well, not in a good place at all. And because I’m me, I put myself in a position to receive a lot of negative feedback, twice, which didn’t help in that regard.
Enter Noah Elrief. Noah Elrief does a guided meditation that sort of blows me away with its simple message. It is aimed at anxiety, but I find that it works for its cousin, depression, as well. He talks about my favorite thing: how in the present moment there are no problems to solve. That our mind will wander and freak us out and make us think there are problems, but when we gently bring it back, we remember.
We’re right here.
There are no problems.
This is reality.
“Where’s your nose?” he asks. “Where’s the problem?” Your nose is reality. The problem is not.
Where’s your nose?
I do everything wrong and everyone hates me.
Where’s your nose?
Nothing will make this feeling go away.
Where’s your nose?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past couple of days, in between trying to sleep, and trying not to cry, and trying to keep myself distracted. Where’s my nose. I simultaneously spend too much time “out there” where all the yuckiness lives, and inside my brain where… well, where more yuckiness lives. So I try to remember my nose. My nose that just exists in reality. Not in the noise of my brain, and not in the noise of the world. It just… IS. And that’s where the peace is, grounded in reality, grounded in the present time, grounded in a place that’s safe.
It will change, to be sure, but right now thinking of that meditation (and my nose, of all the random things) helps a lot.
I lost a good handful of followers yesterday. This neither surprised me nor upset me. It’s part and parcel with writing something controversial. Some of them were kind enough to make parting speeches, but I eventually stopped reading the comments, so it’s likely I missed a few. We’ll call that bonus number 11: I don’t always respond to comments, and sometimes, out of self-preservation, I don’t even read them.
To be completely frank though, you don’t need to wait for a controversial post to unfollow me if you want to. I can save you some wasted time and let you know there are lots of reasons to unfollow me right now! Here’s a handy dandy list in case you need one:
I lived in New England for over 30 years of my life, and I cannot stand the Patriots. I actively root against them every time they are playing.
I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books, nor watched the movies. At first it was just disinterest, but now it’s sheer stubbornness along with the fact that I enjoy the look of horror on people’s faces when I tell them.
I don’t like nuts in brownies, and I think Nutella is grossly overrated. I don’t GET Nutella. I mean, is it sweet, is it savory? What on earth is it? It’s ground nuts and chocolate. If I’m going to have nuts and chocolate, the nuts are going to be in the form of peanut butter and the chocolate is going to be in the shape of a cup.
I have a tenuous grasp on grammar. I know, I know, I’m a writer and probably shouldn’t admit that. But I leave out words, I virtually stutter, and I rarely have the patience to properly proofread.
I never stick to one topic, despite some people’s dismay. It’s blogging 101: You’re supposed to stick to one niche. But I’ve never been much for rules, my thoughts are all over the map, and your guess as is as good as mine about what I’ll write about next.
I love Ellen Degeneres, and one of my favorite favorite Ellen moments was when she had an elderly caller who said, “You know, I love Jesus, but sometimes I drink a little.” Ellen about died laughing, and I’ve never related to someone so hard. I’m a Christ-follower (not a fan of the word Christian) but sometimes I drink a little. I’m also fond of the F word.
I like my dogs more than most people. So listen, I LOVE people, I do. I’m all about spreading the love. But liking people? I’m about as big introvert as you’ll ever meet, I’m awkward and sometimes shy, and people tend to… well, they stress me out.
I’m a hypocrite and I contradict myself, sometimes in the very same post. I’m not proud of this mind you, but it’s true. I’m human, and we tend to be a fickle bunch.
I watched the Fault in Your Stars and I didn’t cry. I tend not to cry over movies unless they’re happy tears. Or unless something bad happenes to a dog. (See number 7)
You’re eventually going to disagree with me over something. If 1 through 9 didn’t bother you, I assure you something eventually will. We’re not wired to agree on everything. In fact it weirds me out a little when I get comments that say, “I agree with everything you write!” Because 1) It’s probably not true, and 2) If it is true, you just haven’t been hanging around long enough. We’ll disagree. It’s okay! My best friend doesn’t like coffee. DOESN’T LIKE IT. And you know what? I love her anyway.
There are all kinds of reasons to dislike, disagree, or unfollow me. If you really must leave and don’t like any of my reasons, one will be assigned to you. There’s really no requirement to make an exit speech (It’s easy! Just click a button!), but I do so love to read a good juvenile flounce.
To those who are still here, thanks for sticking around. 🙂
(And why I don’t feel the need to watch any more of the videos)
By now you’ve all seen the video, or at least the still photo of the young man with the smirk. Video surfaced of a March for Life anti-abortion rally in which it appears that a group of young men (students from Covington Catholic High School) is taunting a Native American elder who is playing the drums. At the center of the controversy is Nick Sandmann, a young man directly in front of the Native American, Nathan Phillips. The boy is wearing a Make America Great Again hat and a… smile. We’ll call it a smile.
Since the video was first released, people came to the boys’ defense. Arguments were made, more videos were made public, more of the story was pieced together. Some say the boys were provoked. Some say it was the adults that were behaving badly. Some say that it was much ado about nothing; a peaceful protest that was taken out of context. All over Facebook people are being urged to watch more video, to get the full picture, to not make assumptions.
I don’t want to watch more video. And I don’t need to know more of the story. Because what I want to talk about is that hat. That blasted MAGA hat on that kid’s head, and what it says … all by itself. No video needed.
Because that hat stands for something. Someone who would deliberately wear that hat stands for something. Hint: It’s not about making America great again.
Wearing that hat shows support for a man who bragged about sexual assault.
Wearing that hat shows support for a man who is openly racist, sexist, homophobic and misogynistic.
Wearing that hat shows support for a man who openly mocked a disabled reporter.
Wearing that hat shows support for a man who continues to use his platform to degrade, to insult, and to provoke his fellow Americans.
Wearing that hat shows support for a narcissistic blowhard who is led solely by his own fragile little ego.
Wearing that hat shows support for a man who is supposed to be leading our country and instead spends his time playing schoolyard tit for tat on Twitter.
The hat says something.
I don’t know exactly what happened that day. And I don’t know Nick Sandmann. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I don’t need to. The hat tells me everything I need to know.
When I say I’m depressed, I don’t mean I’m sad or down or in a funk. I mean I’m clinically depressed. I’ve been clinically depressed on and off since my twenties (You can read about my initial diagnosis of bipolar starting here.)
It’s a weird thing, depression. It lays dormant for awhile, its little tentacles still. And then, sometimes with warning and sometimes without, it comes to life again, slithering its way along your heart, your brain, your soul. Its only purpose is to provide misery. Its only mission to engulf you. And then it leaves again, its presence no more than another battle scar, another reminder that you once again crossed through the darkness.
Fortunately, I’ve gotten fairly adept at dealing with it when it comes. I can thank therapy and medication for that, along with way too much practice. But I find so much of the (well-meaning; I know it’s well-meaning) advice out there to be condescending, complicated, and sort of preachy in its nature. Put simply, it does not help me.
I think the problem is that most of the information out there is aimed at preventing depression, and/or staving off the beginnings of sadness. Things such as getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, meditating, prayer to a higher power if you believe in one, using essential oils and other natural remedies. Etc. All good advice.
The problem is, when one is already in the midst of a depression, she’s NOT getting enough sleep, eating well feels as difficult as crossing the Atlantic, exercise requires getting out of bed, meditating means staunching the flow of tears long enough to hear the silence. And oils? I will THROW YOUR OILS AT YOU if you suggest them when I’m already depressed.
There is one thing though. ONE thing that helps, and I share it in case it’ll help you too.
It’s to make myself to do ONE THING. It doesn’t cure it, by any means, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to remind me that I have permission to get out of my head, even for five minutes. It’s meant to remind me that I can still do the thing, even in the depths of darkness. It’s meant to remind me that if I can do one thing today, I can do one thing tomorrow. It’s meant to remind me that if I can do one thing, I’ll eventually be able to do two, or four, or ten. It’s meant to remind me that I will not always be depressed.
And make no mistake, some days I have to absolutely force it, even if it’s something I ordinarily love.
This week week, I:
Took a bath
Drew a picture
Took Tegan out to the park to practice volleyball
Painted my nails
Walked on my treadmill
Read a new book
Started a new show on Netflix
Wore a new ring I bought myself for my birthday
Some days, I have to do my one thing through tears. And some days, my one thing IS tears. Some days my one thing is letting myself cry the tears that I try so hard to keep at bay.
Some days my one thing is a nap.
It doesn’t take the depression away, this much is true. But it tampers it, it smooths the edges, it gives me the confidence to know that yes, yes, I will beat this again. And when I’m feeling better I’ll get back on track with my eating and sleeping and all that other important stuff. Absolutely. But for now I’ll just do one thing.
There’s a weird little “challenge” going around Facebook right now. It started out innocently enough, asking people to post their first ever profile picture beside their most current one. Then it morphed or something, because all I started to see after that was a copied and pasted, “How hard has aging hit you?”, with the requisite old picture and new picture. Compliments are flying about how everyone aged so well, and look better now, and blah blah blah. It bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until today. Undeniably, with very few exceptions, people DO look better as they age… but it actually has nothing to do with looks.
If we’re basing this on just physical appearance, here’s how aging has hit me:
I’ve gained weight, to the tune of 30 pounds, due to a changing metabolism, stress eating (and stress drinking), and medication. Everything about my body is softer.
I have a lot more grey in my hair than I used to, and I go back and forth between covering it up, and letting it run free.
I have more lines around my eyes. Evidence that I’ve laughed many gales, and shed many tears.
I have more lines on my forehead too, and between my brows and at the corners of my lips.
My skin can’t decide if it wants to be dry or greasy, often vacillating between the two, or somehow being both at the same time. I have weird spots that aren’t acne or freckles, but are just… spots.
More things hurt on my body than they used to, and I’m more clumsy than ever (which pairs nicely with the fact that I also bruise more easily)
And in the grand scheme of life? NONE OF THE ABOVE MATTERS.
Because here’s how aging has really hit me:
I’m stronger. I went from a people-pleasing, frightened girl to someone who not only found her voice, but isn’t afraid to use it. Hard times shaped me, and good times smoothed the edges.
I’m wiser. Not the kind of wiser you get from reading books or taking classes, but from living this messy life we live. From making mistake after mistake and learning from them.
I love harder. I’ve endured the betrayal of false friends, and found the joy and the healing in new ones. And my kids? My kids taught me to love fiercely and unconditionally and without apology.
I’m more open. My world which was once narrow (so narrow!) and black and white, is now vast and colorful and limitless.
I’m more ME. Ten years ago, I was starting to shake off the shackles, but 20 years ago? No idea who I was, or who I could be. Not an earthly clue. Now I know me. I accept me. I embrace me.
I’m braver. Ten years ago when someone told me I couldn’t do something, I’d believe them. And now? Now my response is, “watch me.”
I’m softer (and not just my belly). You would think that becoming stronger and braver would make a person hard, but the opposite is true. Learning to love who I am made me embrace both the tough, I-can-do-anything-I-set-my-mind-to self, AND the empathetic, sensitive, emotional self that so many people told me to deny. I feel deeply, I care deeply, I love deeply. My entire life I’ve been told I was too sensitive, and you know what? This world we live in right now is full of harshness and ragged edges. The world needs sensitive. The world needs empathy. The world needs soft. The world needs people who’ve unapologetically settled in to their aging, wrinkling, grey haired badass selves.
So, no. I won’t be participating in any “How hard has aging hit me” challenges. My face tells such an insignificant part of the story. I am so much more than my aging face.
You know how sometimes you’ll be reading a book or watching a movie, and completely relating? You’ll be nodding or smiling or even laughing, and then it suddenly takes an unexpectedly dark turn? You’re caught off guard, and not in a good way. You’re caught off guard in an uncomfortable, “Wait. What just happened?” way.
That’s exactly how I felt when I read this meme:
Stop beating yourself up for yelling at your kids. Yes, absolutely. You’re human. You’re going to slip up sometimes. You’re going to have bad days, you’re going to get mad. Self-flagellation is not helpful, but mindfulness and moving into the next moment with more gentleness is. Yelling at people we love isn’t nice, so while self-forgiveness is important, it doesn’t give you cart blanche to do it any time you feel like it.
You’re an amazing mom. You probably are. But can I be honest for a minute? Sometimes I think we do more harm than good with all the back-patting. Sometimes what we need is a wake-up call. We don’t do each other any favors if a mom says, “I can’t seem to stop yelling at my kids,” and we respond with “Oh you’re doing just fine!” rather than first empathizing and following up with tools and strategies that might help.
Your kids will be fine. Again, they probably will. I’m aiming for better than “fine”.
They know you love them. There are a million and one ways to show your kids that you love them, this much is true. There are also a million and one ways to deny it. One of the most powerful pieces of parental advice I got when I was a new mom is that with each interaction, keep in mind that your choice will either bring you and your child closer together or drive you further apart. I have never forgotten that.
But the fact is, they’re annoying AF. (For the uninitiated, AF stands for “as f*ck) So, here’s the thing. Can kids be annoying? Can spouses and parents and best friends and co-workers be annoying? Sure. Anyone with a heartbeat can be annoying. We are complicated and fickle creatures. Sometimes people just annoy us.
But the problem with memes like this is that they speak to a much larger issue. Somewhere along the way, it became in vogue to put children down, to treat them as lesser-than, and to make “jokes” at their expense. Hey, let’s end the meme by calling kids annoying AF! Hysterical.
The way we talk about kids matters. And the fact is, kids are far too often talked about as though they are not even human. It’s normal, it’s accepted, it’s FUNNY to make fun of kids. We collectively don’t even bat an eyelash anymore.
And it’s not that I need to lighten up, and it’s not that I need to learn to take a joke. It’s just that I don’t think it’s okay to make the littlest and most vulnerable members of our society a punchline. Kids need to be protected, not ridiculed. Kids need to be loved, not disparaged.
We can do better. Yet instead of encouraging more kindness towards our kids, we’re encouraging more childism. Every time a meme like this is shared it sends the message that it’s okay. It’s okay to make fun of kids. It’s okay to treat them as lesser-than. It’s okay to put them down.
There is an epidemic of belittling our children, and THAT is annoying AF.
At the time of this writing, all four of my kids (ages almost 11, up to 21) all have their own phones. It’s honestly not something I think about all that often. It’s 2019 – full disclosure: I just typed 2018, and then caught myself. I could hear 21 year old’s voice, who has the best memory of anyone I know, in my head. “Mom. It’s 2019 now.” He corrected me just yesterday. But given that’s it’s only the 4th, I’m giving myself a little grace on this one.
It’s 2019, and people generally have their own phones. I view their phones like I view most things pertaining to the kids: Something to be aware of and something to keep the lines of communication open about… not something to freak out about.
This morning I saw a list of phone rules being passed around (and praised) on Facebook, and as is typical, my perspective is a little bit – or in this case, a lot – different than the author’s.
The rules were taken from a Facebook post by Bart King, and adapted from the original set of rules by a mom named Janell Hoffman. What follows is excerpts from the original rules, followed by my response to each one. It stands to be said: I don’t disagree with every single point… just enough to make me take a major pause. Also, as my standard disclaimer: This post is about ideas, concepts, and philosophies, NOT about any one single mom. (I don’t know her. She could very well be lovely.)
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it.
I bought it for you, and now it is yours. Just like your room, your clothes, and the rest of your belongings. Your phone belongs to you.
2. I will always know the password.
The only time I will ask for your password is in case of emergency and/or during a matter of safety. It’s your phone, not mine. (See point 1)
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
If it rings, see who’s calling. If it’s someone you want to talk to, answer it. You’re never obligated to talk to someone if you don’t want to talk (that goes for when you’re an adult as well!) Having said that, parents worry. If we text or call to check in, please take the two seconds to respond.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.
Sometimes some of the best conversations happen after hours! Just know your friends, and their own personal boundaries for texting/phone calls. Respect them.
5. It does not go to school with you.
Having never sent my kids to school, I don’t know what the common practice is. Are phones usually allowed at school? If not, leave it home. If so, use common sense.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.
Accidents happen, to all of us. If something happens to your phone, we’ll work together on the best solution, the same way we would if it was a phone belonging to myself or your father.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.
Absolutely. Don’t do those things off-line either. Show basic respect and kindness to your fellow humans.
8-9. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
A good thing to remember in general. People get a certain bravado behind a screen, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Always be yourself, whether you’re on your phone, on the internet, or in person.
10. No porn.
Children shouldn’t be looking at porn in any form, anywhere.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.
I think this one comes down to respect and common sense. Yes, it’s always a good idea to silence your phone in public. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to the person you’re with, rather than the people on your phone. But the world is not black and white. You might want your phone to take pictures. You might want to Google something. You might get an urgent text. So no, I won’t tell you to NEVER use your phone in public. Use common sense. Show respect.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.
Those pictures last forever, and no, they’re not a good idea.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos.
If it makes you happy, by all means take lots of pictures and videos! I treasure the pictures and videos of my kids, my friends, and my adventures, and I love that I have a camera ready in my pocket at all times.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it.
You don’t have to leave your phone home. But know that if you do go somewhere with cell service, you will be just fine! You’re a smart, capable, well-rounded person whose life is enhanced by a phone, not enabled by it.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff.
Download music that you like, whatever that may be.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
I mean, yeah, sure? But only if you like games with words or puzzles or brain teasers. Otherwise, play what you do like.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
This is all great advice. But it’s not mutually exclusive to owning, using, or enjoying a phone as well.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it.
Yes, you’ll mess up. You’re human. Yes, we’ll sit down and talk about it. Yes, we’ll come up with solutions together. I will only take your phone if it’s a matter of safety or respect, for yourself or others.
A phone is a tool like anything else. It’s a super cool one too! Who would have thought we’d all be carrying around miniature computers everywhere we go? Like most things we live and work and play with on a daily basis, its safe use begs self-respect and a healthy dose of common sense….. not long lists of arbitrary rules.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve taken a shower, brushed my teeth, put on workout clothes, put on regular clothes, ran errands, went for a run, made dinner, got ready for bed…
And no one paid me to do any of it!
It seems kind of ludicrous, right? Getting paid to do basic, personal, life tasks? (Not that it wouldn’t be nice, mind you) It’s just that it’s kind of part and parcel of being a human.
But paying kids for these kinds of things is exactly what this article advocates. Mom says, “As they complete tasks, they check them off and earn money.” She also says it’s the best decision she’s ever made.
And I can’t help but wonder… what happens when they’re off at college and Mom’s not around to pay them anymore?
But I’ll get back to that.
The general problem with paying kids to perform basic tasks (or using sticker charts, or having them earn “screen time”, or anything of that ilk) is that it is conditioning them to expect an external reward anytime they do something, rather than acting out of their own intrinsic desire. It doesn’t actually teach them anything, except that if they do xyz, they’ll get a pony. (A pony, a dollar, an hour of Fort Nite, whatever)
Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards says it best when he says, “When we repeatedly promise rewards to children for acting responsibly, or to students for making an effort to learn something new, or to employees for doing quality work, we are assuming that they could not or would not choose to act this way on their own.” (More quotes from the same book here)
Do rewards work, at least in the short term? Sure! Why wouldn’t a child agree to get dressed (or make their bed or do their homework) if they get paid when they’re done? The thing is though, raising kids is not a short-term proposition. It’s long term. And in the long term, rewards not only don’t work, but they are counterproductive. The child wasn’t trusted enough to do what he needed to do without being paid. He was, in fact, was robbed of the chance to learn to do things of his own volition.
What happens when little Jimmy decides, “You know what, I have enough money right now. It’s not worth it to take a bath?” Mom’s going to have to either concede that her money plan wasn’t as foolproof as she thought, OR she’s going to end up needing to exert even more control, and as such have to up the ante. She’s effectively taught her son that one takes a bath to get paid, not because it’s hygienic or feels nice or keeps one from stinking.
And to get back to my earlier point… what happens when Son goes off to college and doesn’t have Mom to pay him for doing his homework? For studying for his test? From keeping his room from becoming a giant petri dish? It may sound blunt, but he’ll likely be stunted, unable to make heads or tails of his own sense of responsibility, of his own sense of right and wrong. Those are lessons he’s going to have to learn as a young adult, rather than naturally as a child.
How much better to learn these things as a child, under the watchful care and example of your parents!
The goal (at least my goal) is to raise children that are responsible, capable, kind, and well-adjusted. Children who operate from their own internal sense of what is good and right. And that just won’t happen if they’re paid every time they take a breath.