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”