Seeking A Reward

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.   Colossians 3:23-24

DSC00350Zack’s school recently changed marking periods from quarters to trimesters. His report card came home on Friday.

Although he has missed an assignment here and there, his overall grades were great! I congratulated him and hung the report card on the refrigerator for all to see. Then he asked if there was a reward. He reminded me that when he was younger, I’d give him money for good grades. He asked if we could go back to that system.

I explained that I only did that when he was younger to help him understand that getting good grades was important. But now, as a seventh grader, he should be getting good grades because it’s the right thing to do, not for the reward. He took it well enough, but his disappointment was clear to see.

I thought I’d let it go at that, but the issue continued to nag at me. I think it’s because I feel his pain.

I try to do life right each day, according to my faith. I don’t need a trophy for what I do; but, if I’m honest, I sure do want some type of earthly reward for my efforts. In fact, I’ve created some really terrible habits out of this need.

Not only have I made junk food my reward at the end of the good days, but I use it as a consolation at the end of the bad days too. What a hypocrite! I won’t give Zack a reward for a trimester well done, but I’m rewarding myself daily, even when I’ve failed.

So, the question on the table was: Which way do I go? Do I eliminate the reward system for myself? Or do I resume the reward system for my kids?

After a lot of thought and prayer, I’ve decided to do a bit of both. The daily rewards for myself have to go. I’ve become glutinous and self-serving, rather than serving God. But I think a singular reward for an achieved long term goal is perfectly appropriate for us all. Like Ecclesiastes 3:13 says, “People should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

Consequently, April has become the month where I am kicking my junk food habit. If I can go thirty days without junk food, my reward will be a cute little dress at Athleta. It’s way out of my price range, but I’m hoping it will be the carrot I need to get me through what will be a very hard month.

As for my kids, I’ve resumed the reward system for good report cards. Of course they’ll still need to be studying and doing their daily homework, because that’s the right thing to do. But at the end of each trimester, if they’ve earned good grades, there will be ice cream sundaes and a small cash prize.

Questions For Reflection:

     * What are the expectations I have for my kids? Are there rewards when they’ve met them?

     * What are my expectations for myself? Are there rewards when I’ve met them?

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2 thoughts on “Seeking A Reward

  1. This one is a tough one for me. I do not reward my daughters for good grades (I want them to want good grades for themselves) or for doing their chores (which is minimal really, since we have help from my mother in law). I feel like they get so much all the time — Valentines day I get them gifts, If we go to the store, many times I let them pick out something small; they want something new to wear, we compromise. And sometimes, I give them a challenge to fulfill if they want something expensive or that I feel they don’t really need. {completed homework, extra reading, good behavior,etc)…..Many times I reward with activities as well. But I continuously remind them that they only get all of the above for being kind, loving, respectful (to me!), responsible, etc. And there have been times I’ve said no because they didn’t behave appropriately that week. But it’s so hard to know what is the right thing to do? I’ve been trying to deny myself things or food (because I love treats!) so that I can get closer to a simple, spiritual life. But then I catch myself thinking of my reward with God for being nice to this person that day or doing that good deed, etc. So is it truly from my heart? Am I bartering with God, by trying to be a nice Catholic, Christian woman so that he’ll keep me and my family safe??? There’s a deep reflection there. Something I need to continuously ask myself and check with my conscience so that I am truly doing what he has called me to do out of obedience and love.

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    • Wow, Sandra! Lots of wonderful food for thought in your comment. Thank you! It’s funny because every time I think I know how I want to approach rewards with myself and my kids, I change my mind. It’s so individual, child to child, mom to mom, and season to season. The part about continuously checking in with your conscience really resonates with me. I think I was making some bad choices around rewards; I put off checking in with my conscience because I knew I’d then have to do something about it. Having my son call me on it was the kick I needed. It’s nice to know another mom doesn’t see it so black and white either. Thanks for sharing your take on things!

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