Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What's My Motivation?

I could make this about writing (most of my posts end up this way), since I could use the idea of motivation to discuss why characters act as they do. I could show that characters who act only to further plot, but have no reasons behind their actions other than this, usually make for a pretty stale novel (and lame characters)... 

However, the reason this is my topic today is because of my son. He is nearly five (only a few weeks away), and I have been working with him to teach him to read. With the help of an interesting book--100 Easy Lessons to Teach Your Child to Read--I have been slowly developing his letter recognition, phonics knowledge, etc. 

But such a task has been the bane of my existence these many months. The lessons are supposed to be quick, though the later ones, I'm certain, should take at least 1/2 an hour to complete. However, my son manages to drag them out TWO HOURS a DAY!!!! His eyes wander, he huffs, he whines, he claims he can't read "the" (one of the first words he learned, and one he'd already read at least 20 times immediately prior), claims he has to go potty, wants water, feels tired, won't take a nap... and so on, until my eyes are bleeding (I'm sure they are, though I'm afraid to look) and the closest thing to heaven I can imagine is all the books in the world burned to a crisp (and if you know how I feel about books, that's about as extreme as it gets). 

But today, we had a breakthrough. I found his motivation. For the word lists at the beginning of today's lesson, I offered him a peanut half for each word he read. He read them as fast as he ever has. For the story, I offered him half a peanut each time he finished a sentence. 

Yes, he ate quite a few peanuts. But he's nearly five, and he's still the size of a 3-year-old (he barely weighs 40 lbs.), so a bit more food in him won't hurt, at least right now. And they are the "low salt" peanuts, too (still salty, but what am I supposed to do?). 

So, I'm bribing my kid with food. I've found a motivation for him to do what I want, but I'm still offering him food if only he'll do something. And I know that's bad. Is there some other way to motivate him? I've tried about a hundred things so far. This is the first one that worked, so I'm sticking with it.

Knowing my son, though, tomorrow he'll probably decide he hates peanuts. (Drat!)


  1. If my son is any indication, any motivation that works is a good motivation.

    However, if my son is any indication, it won't work indefinitely. Enjoy it while you can.