Monday, June 18, 2012


Sometime soon I hope to share a bit about how the kids are adjusting to school here.  It's up-and-down, personal, and emotional, so I'm not quite sure yet how to frame it for the blog.  For now, however, I will share how the kids are adjusting to getting to and from school.  The short answer: not well.  And specifically, not well for a certain little blonde 4-year-old.  I've already hinted at this, right?  It's been tougher than we thought it would be.

Nana got a taste of the action last week
However, the boy is at least partially justified in his malaise.  He has gone from a total of 4 hours of school per week (and just two days per week) back in Oregon, to about 22 hours per week here.  Even Daphne was only attending roughly 13 hours per week in half-day kindergarten in Oregon.  And, both were attending just the afternoon sessions of their schools, whereas here school begins every day at 8am. And, we walk to and from school, 5 blocks each way (5 blocks for a pint-sized legs is longer than it might seem).  And, we do that a total of 16 times each week (2 separate sessions of school on M-W-F).  And, it's often in the driving rain (when it rains here, it's usually short, but it rains hard). And, it's not like we're walking to get ice cream 16 times a week.  We're marching to school - unfamiliar, foreign language immersion school where weird, unfamiliar stuff is happening to you.

So put yourself in a certain blonde 4-year-old's rain boots and see how you feel.  Maybe not so motivated.

But I'll tell you what does motivate the certain blonde 4-year-old at our house: screen time.  Videos, computer games, iPad - you name it, he loves it.

Enter the bribery.

Now, I do not like bribing my kids, it gives me a yucky feeling.  Rewarding and punishing - however you want to sugar coat it, it's basically bribery.  In general, I'm an advocate of inspiring intrinsic motivation for obedience and doing the right thing whenever possible, rather than providing extrinsic motivation (prizes and such).

Blah blah blah.  Bribery it is, folks.  Pete's behind it 100%.  It was his idea.  He has fewer qualms about bribery.

For every time the kids walk to school with no complaining, no stopping, no-weeping, no I-don't-want-to-go-to-school-ing, no pants-are-bothering-me-ing, no something-in-my-shoe-ing walk to or from school, they each get one ticket.  One ticket equals 5 minutes of screen time, to be spent or saved for a time of their choosing that week.  If I was some kind of parenting guru, the "reward" would probably better correspond with the task, or some such nonsense, but this was an easy way out.  And we're taking those when we can, by golly.

We still have good days and bad days, ticket and no-ticket walks, but I think it really has helped.  Much less weeping and stopping overall.


Anonymous said...


Take heart - you are definitely in a "whatever it takes to survive" situation. I have no doubts that your nameless child will become a lovely, intrinsicly-motivated adult! Maybe even a computer engineer?

-Rachel Anne

Anonymous said...


I tried to leave a comment doesn't look like it posted. Your idea for the tickets is really gives the kids an investment in their reward by helping them feel good about earning 'treats.' And it helps you out as well. It is a win-win idea. Good for you. Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that comment was from Julie, by the way!

ptitteri said...

Hm. Julie and I have no problem with bribery... Good job Mom!


Anonymous said...

Suzy, this is another expat family in lux. You visited our blog, This weekend is national day here so we should try to get together and maybe we can introduce you to some friends as well.

I replied to your posting on my blog with my email.

Ashley said...

Rosie- When I worked as a behavior interventionist we put together a variety of reinforcement strategies for increasing target behaviors. And we used token economies for some kids. We had to explain to parents that the difference between bribery and positive reinforcement a lot. The biggest difference between the two, and possibly a justification for positive reinforcement, is that for bribery, a reward is offered while the undesired behavior is occurring. For example, little guy throws a fit, sits on the ground, refuses to stand, and whines about walking-- so a treat is offered if he stands up and walks. This is bribery. A behaviorist would redirect the child to stand up and walk. Once this behavior has occurred, using verbal praise for "smart choices" is given. Once the desired behavior is occurring (walking with the group), using intermittent reinforcement with the tickets is a powerful way to increase those desired behaviors. Anyway, all that to say, it doesn't sound like bribery to me. :)

Pete and Rosie said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ashley! I'm sure you're right, but it sure FEELS like bribery when it's happening!