Yes, I've read all the research that says humans work best when they get intrinsic pleasure from activity rather than when an external motivator is applied. And that you shouldn't get into a situation where your child will demand a toy before tidying their room. But I still did it. Read on to find out what happened.
My younger son is 4.5 and he's never been very interested in drawing or writing (unlike his older brother who has always spent lots of time drawing from a young age.) He's at school and his ability to actually put pencil to paper is behind his other skills. He can have a go at spelling and come up with stories and his reading is really good. I thought he would actually enjoy writing if he gave it a chance.
We had a bit of success with him writing letters on his LeapPad 2, he seemed to find it easier than using paper and loved the little reward animations. But now he needs to start writing sentences, or phrases at least.
So I casually said that if he did ten good pieces of writing then he could choose a new Skylander. His big brother and lots of older friends are Skylanders fans. He has a go at playing the game with his Dad's help and really enjoys all the characters. I'm afraid I'm guilty of gently steering my kids towards choices that I approve of and I'm more than happy for them to play Skylanders.
I didn't think there was much chance he would actually do it. But he sprang into action. Every day before school he tells me he needs to do his writing and produces a sentence or two with pictures.
He didn't icspect that!Yesterday's piece was a real treat. It was about an Egyptian Mummy who was not dead and the surprise an explorer (well, icsplorer!) got when he realized. The punchline was "He didn't icspect that!" and the explorer had a shocked face (I gave him two points for this one.) He still needs a lot of practice with his writing style, but he's really enjoying it. And this morning he managed to earn his final point so he has earned Eruptor.
He now wants to work towards Hot Head! Yes, you could say I've set myself up. But actually he is really enjoying the writing. And his skills have improved so he's not finding it such hard work to physically do the writing and he's so proud to be able to show people his work. It seems that the external motivation has made him realize the intrinsic pleasure of getting his words down on paper.
Is it bad to bribe kids with a Skylander? Well I think I got away with it this time.
Oh and I'd better go and order Eruptor, I didn't expect him to earn it so quickly!