Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Intentions

I overheard a conversation while sitting at one of the young Toadroller's baseball games the other day.

A mother had just bought her son a bicycle.  He was going to pay it off by vacuuming the house and cleaning bathrooms weekly.  She thought it would be a good lesson about responsibility and working hard to get what you want, and was looking forward to a clean house.

This will not end well.

He's got the bike already.  He'll do the chores for a week or two, maybe three.  And then what?

The lesson he's learned is that you can have what you want now if you intend to pay for it later.  And when he doesn't pay?  He'll learn about how easy it is to get out of his responsibilities.  He's learned to get into debt, to be a serf to his possessions.

Suggested approach:

Don't buy the prize first!

Decide in advance how much chore-work the bike is worth.  Pay him each week when the work is done.  Put the money into a jar, always visible on the counter.   Make one of those fundraising thermometer drawings and put it on the fridge.  Watch it grow.  If he doesn't work, it doesn't grow.

He'll get more and more excited and he'll see the results of his work.  Let him go make the purchase.*  Let him hand over the cash.  

That's the lesson about responsibility and working hard to get what you want: hard work equals results, not I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.

Another suggested approach:

Give him the bike as a gift.  Make him earn something else.

*Odd are that by the time he gets the money together, he'll have his eye on some other shiny toy.  Or he'll realize he can use some of the money to buy his friend's used bike, and use the rest for something else.  Cash is a good thing to have.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sizing up the Competition

Our eldest Toadroller,* Luke, pursues golf with a passion (and skill-set to match) the likes of which I never really thought possible, and it's taught me a thing or two.

I mean, sure, pros can shoot that 66 to come from behind and win a tournament, but my personal experience with the game has been that it takes time and dedication to simply break 90 here and again.  Luke has taught me that mere mortals CAN play golf; it is possible.

We spent Sunday and Monday together at a fancy resort in New Hampshire, where he attempted to qualify for the USGA's Junior Amateur national tournament.

In the tournament, playing with truly skilled peers, he shot 86, 83 over 36 holes of golf in one long day.  He finished middle of the pack and tied with his two playing partners.  There is pressure in a tournament, and there are differences when portions of your game go missing.  During Sunday's practice round with me helping caddy and map out the course for him, he split the fairways, stuck his irons, and made his putts to shoot a 73.  Yesterday his woods found the woods, his irons didn't strike such fire, and he did a lot of work with the putter to earn pars and bogeys with just a few birdies.

I thought it would be a long, quiet drive home, but Luke was chatty as could be and confident. 

"I can play with those guys," he said to me.  Not cocky, not wishful thinking, but simply confident.  He's proven it to himself.  He's had a taste of the next level and it fired up his competitive juices.  "I can't wait for golf season to really get rolling."  I don't know what he thinks the last three months have been- he's already played a good thirty rounds- but in his mind, baseball has kept him from the course and he as work to do.

Luke is on the left, sizing up the hole and the competition on a 200 yard par 3.  He stuck that one to 9 feet and made the birdie.

*Actually, he's more of a turtle.