Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Money – The Great Motivator July 29, 2011

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money boxAs the men-children head towards Year 10 (can you believe we’re already talking about subject selection for next year – Gulp!), Father of a Man-Child and I realize we are indeed getting to the pointy end of their school education.  And with that, we are keen to see an overall lift in their performance at school, as we all know that diligence in the early years pays off in the later years.

So with the latest school reports in hand, we discussed how we might incentivize the boys onto greater things during the second half of the year.  One of the men-children is a reasonably diligent student, although we think he does the bare minimum to achieve results, so is capable of a lot more.  And the other is a pretty poor student, in so far as he is not at all engaged by school (academia at least), not motivated (or even propelled by the threat of detentions) to do homework, listen in class, study etc – in short lacking in a basic belief in the importance of school education for his future prospects (sigh from Mother of a Man-Child, the most diligent of students).

On countless occasions the school tells us both are capable of far more – which I suppose is the biggest disappointment, especially with our disengaged man-child.   And so, to motivation – what better solution than MONEY!!!  Every 15-year-old boy who doesn’t have access to an in-built ATM at home, or a paying job, or has tight parents, surely needs money.  Especially with extended summer holidays on the horizon.

So we put a deal on the table for them:  For every B grade or better they achieved in their exams, we would pay them $100 per subject.  So they can both earn themselves $600 if they really want to – not bad for a 15-year-old we thought

In the case of one of the man-children, there was however a catch.  For whatever reason, he is consistently late for school.  No amount of detentions at school for lateness or positive reinforcement from home and school for timeliness seems to impact his behaviour.   His last report had 11 “half day absences” – basically the times he was late and was unaccounted for.  So we added a catch to his reward scheme.  For every late day on his report he would lose $20.  So if he had 10 late days it would cost him $200 offset by the B grades he would hopefully earn.

Do you know what he said?  No deal!!!  Crap – I didn’t see that coming.  He just refused to partake, point-blank, and said he’d rather go without than pay some money back.  I was exasperated.  How hard is it to get up and go to school on time – it’s such a small thing to do isn’t it?  Especially when your mother wakes you up every day!

No amount of reasoning in the next few weeks would convince him to partake in the scheme.  I was pretty pissed off with him especially since we’re even paying for a tutor for one subject, which should guarantee he gets a good grade (yep, double impost for us really).  Not one to be beaten (you know I hate to lose), I came up with an alternative deal that I wouldn’t let him refuse.  I basically flipped the penalty on its head.  So if he got five or less absences we would pay him a bonus $100.  That’s right, not a penalty but a further reward.  It seems weird, but hey if it works it’s worth it.

So time will tell how we go with the carrots for the men-children.  Father of a Man-Child and I are optimistic that it will motivate Man-Child I.  We’re less convinced about Man-Child II, but maybe he’ll surprise us?

Any other thoughts on how to motivate students?  Is the carrot or the stick better?  It’s hard to know sometimes.  Although removing PS3 for the term and taking the plug out of the TV certainly ensures they don’t have much to do except homework whilst they’re sitting upstairs some nights! 🙂

Read about more challenges with educating the men-children: “The Challenge of Educating Boys” 


2 Responses to “Money – The Great Motivator”

  1. Jodie Says:

    Oh Kelly, our boys are most certainly related!!! Mr 6 3″ would rather have a detention every day after school than go to football training and we have both agreed he can have detention rather than sport! AND he’s a sport kid! Hence he has been dropped to the 3rds as he wanted to focus on school work! Mr 6 3″ did not start putting in until year 11. Prior to that on every report it was “he has more ability than he is doing”, grades above average but not “working to capacity”. Only wanting to do enough work to please teachers and keep me off his case. I also tried money, not a motivator for my son I’m afraid! He has put his XBox away for year 12! I didn’t even ask him to! He still goes on Face Book but has a good “study pattern” and I stay right out of it…. If he hasn’t picked it up by year 11, it’s all over. Mr 6 3″ is now getting the grades and is just purely motivated by beating the other boys in class – that’s all he wants to do and get a good ATAR at the end of the year. Not money, gifts, threats anything! Go figure! I’m hanging out for the end of the year and so is he – only 10 more weeks to go. I tell him it’s “all over” after that, you’re on your own. LOL! I wish you luck and keep up the great work, they will thank you I think when they’re about 25 so I’ve been told. J xxx

    • Aunty Jodie. Thank you for your words of wisdom. It seems these two particular men-children have quite a lot in common!! I hope mine follows in the steps of Mr 6 3″. That would be a major step forward trust me. And I am sure Mr 6 3″ will do you proud by years end – he’s no slouch. Look forward to a catch up at some stage. MOMC. xo

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