The Big Reward

My son Dylan is without a doubt one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met. He can tell you the name of dozens of whales and sharks upon one look at their picture. He can go on and on about hurricanes and tornadoes and other weather phenomena. He knows a lot about all sorts of animals. He is very interested in bones and the human anatomy. He loves to be read to and make up stories.

However, Dylan has never been – how do I put this? – particularly academically inclined.

Letters, numbers, etc. are not his forte. As you can imagine, Bill and I have worked very hard to get him to learn, and he is making big strides. He knows how to write almost all the letters of the alphabet and is counting pretty well. Now that he is going to Kindergarten, though, we have amped up our efforts and have started working him even harder.

We have noticed that Dylan does very well with reward systems. For example, I promised him that once he learned to write all the letters of the alphabet all by himself, we would buy him an Iron Man costume, and that has really helped to keep him motivated. His teachers at Summer Learning Experience this summer and  at Kindergarten now also employ a similar method with the kids. It wasn’t surprising, therefore, when Bill used this method on Dylan recently.

Dylan has really struggled listing aloud all the letters of the alphabet. Try as we might, we just could not get him to learn the alphabet song. We didn’t get it. Kids as young as two or three years old can sing it, why couldn’t Dylan?

Last Saturday, while we were doing errands in the car, we tried to get Dylan to sing the song again. He had a hard time with it. He just couldn’t keep track of the order of the letters, or just plain forgot. In frustration, and in an effort to get him to apply himself a little bit more, Bill said “Tell you what, I promise you that the moment you learn to sing the whole song, I will buy you a fish.”

Well, darn it if that boy didn’t IMMEDIATELY open his mouth and sang the entire thing perfectly, from beginning to end.

We were stunned. That little…

Bill tried to backpedal a little bit, add some more things into the bargain, but Dylan held him to his promise, so we had to turn the car around and head to PetSmart. A promise is a promise.

Now we have two little guppies in a superhero aquarium of Dylan’s choosing. He is enchanted with his fish. He feeds them. He talks to them. He eats breakfast and lunch next to them. He is one happy little guy, and I have to admit, I like having pets again. They make our home a little more…homey.

However, you better believe we’re going to think long and hard before offering another big reward again! 



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