Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Update on the Experiment

If any of my plethora (yeah, right) of readers saw my earlier post regarding my Pay-Autumn-To-Read experiment, I have an update.

We settled on an amount per book.  The books are phonics readers that progress in difficulty as one moves through them, so she is gently exposed to knew concepts as she moves forward.  At the same time that we are doing this, I am actually reading, Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn.  I gotta say, I agree with alot of what he says.  And, I do think to myself,  what am I teaching Autumn about reading by making it a job.  You see, I am not rewarding her in the sense that I tell her that I will give her money if she reads.  The deal was centered around the fact that she wants to make money.  My husband and I don't give allowances.  We have tried, but we would always forget.  Neither one of us grew up with them.  The other thing is that dh and I don't think people, kids or adults, should be paid for helping around the house.  I don't get paid to homeschool, or do laundry, or make dinner etc...so we are not paying them to empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, or pick up their dirty clothes.   All that is part and parcel of being a family.

So, I told Autumn that I would really love for her to practice her reading, and I knew she wanted money, so I told her I would pay her so much per book.  The only 'catch' is she has to read them to me (this way I get some Mommy/Autumn time).  She can decide to read 10, 3, or none on a given day.  Also, we have asked her to save 10% of whatever she currently has in her little Trader Joe's coffee can, before she spends it.  We are trying to teach her about always saving a little first.  Unlike some parents, I am not 'making' her tithe it to church.  Right now, she just has to save it.  She can buy whatever she can afford.  Sometimes it's a new Webkinz and yesterday it was an ebay auctioned (which was a cool conversation about auctions) PC game called CATZ 2.

She has really enjoyed this experiment.  Maybe, because it isn't technically a reward.  It is just a payment.  While she is reading I hold back on the praise and just say things like "You did it!"  "You ARE reading!" more statements of the obvious so that she can be proud of herself.  She told me yesterday after reading like 6 books in a row, that she is a good reader.  I said, "I know, I told you that before, but I guess you had to see it for yourself!"  

I really love Alfie Kohn's idea that we need to find what 'intrinsically movtivates" people, not just extrinsically motivate them with rewards or punishments, because according to Kohn theories and research, punishments and rewards don't work long term. I have no doubt that Autumn's reading for cash scheme may come back to bite me in the ass. I mean, what happens when she's read all the phonics readers in the house?  I guess, at least, she will be a more confident reader.  But, what if she decides that she'll never read unless I pay her.  That would be bad...and unrealistic.  I can just see her in college, "But Professor, I am not going to read Chaucer unless you pay me!  Doesn't everyone get paid to read?"  Yeah, that's gonna go over well.  At least, she's got a way to make some money.  I do not try to incentivize her either, by telling her I will pay her a bonus if she reads just a few more books.  She's got her base price per book and the rest is up to her. 

This is definitely unconventional, but hey, a mom's gotta go what a mom's gotta do.  Sitting down and asking Autumn to let me read to her or ask her to read a bit to me just was NOT working.  Admittedly, it is easier to get her to listen to me read.  However, as much as she used to love it, she's not been into much lately...which is why I kind of relish her hunting me down to read (because she wants to make some $$$).  At the very worst, I guess one could accuse me of being no better than a teacher giving out A's or gold stars.  But really, can an A or gold star get you anything?  No.  At least cash can get you something fun.  So, instead of being able to brag about all your stars, you can say, "I don't have any stars, but look at this cool Webkinz collection!" 

Interestingly, a few very cool things have happened since the experiment started.  1) Autumn has taken a real interest in understanding money, counting it, what taxes mean , why save etc... 2) When she is 'flush' with cash she becomes really generous, and has even given Ben some money, and bought things for him (and a friend).
That is worth the whole darn thing to me, her being giving and not greedy.  3) It has made her understand that there is value to things and she is learning about how to get a deal...thus the ebay transaction.

So, maybe it is not a bad thing after all.  All I want is for Autumn to experience more personal success with reading, and quite possibly, when she is confident, she will look for another way to make money instead of reading.  



Leonie said...

I really don't see it as a bribe but as a contract, a deal, like we do with grown ups....

Willa said...

I agree with Leonie. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." When something is work I don't see a problem with acknowledging and validating the work with an agreed-upon contract. To me, it seems that the problem is when all the control is on the side of Pavlov, and the "dogs" are just jumping hoops at the whim of the experimenter, so to speak.

I love your blog btw -- I came to it from your comment on mine.