Posted in Homeschool Encouragement and Support, Practical Homeschool Tips, Prayer

Reward or Punishment?

Leviticus 26:3 – 9     “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit…I will grant peace in the land… I will look on you with favor.”

Leviticus 26:14- 18   “But if you will not listen to me and carry out these commands …. I will punish you for your sins seven times over.”

One of the most memorable classes I ever had was an organizational management class I took in college.  One day our teacher, Mr. Musser, told us he was going to have a contest to see who could find a pencil dot he made on the wall the fastest.    He chose 3 volunteers and sent them out of the room.

He made a small circle on the wall with his pencil, showing us, the remaining 30 students in the class, where it was.  Then he gave us a very interesting set of instructions of what we were to do to the first “victim”.   Our teacher called the first student back into the room and set his stop watch.  We began throwing wads of paper at our classmate.  We called him “nerdy boy”, “poopy-head”, and told him he dressed funny.  We got up from our seats and continued to yell and throw things at him.  (It was pretty fun!)  Meanwhile our classmate frantically searched the walls for the pencil mark.  Finally, amidst the hurling insults and wads of paper, he began getting close to the mark.  Immediately we all sat down, stopped yelling and throwing things, and became perfectly silent.  Our classmate found the dot and our teacher stopped the timer, recording the student’s time to beat on the blackboard.

Our teacher then gave us a new set of instructions of what we were to do to the second “victim”.  Mr. Musser called the second student into the room and set his stop watch.  The student began frantically searching for the tiny pencil mark on the wall.  As she searched, we remained completely silent.  Finally, after searching for several minutes, she began getting closer to the mark.  Immediately we began cheering, clapping, telling her she was so smart.  She was doing a great job!  We whistled, gave her thumbs up; we cheered.  Our classmate found the dot and our teacher stopped the timer, recording the second student’s time on the blackboard.

Our teacher addressed the class a third time and gave us a new set of instructions on how we were to treat the third “victim”.  Mr.  Musser called the third student into the room and set his stop watch.  Immediately student #3 began frantically searching for the tiny pencil mark.  She was pretty far from it, so we began throwing wads of paper, yelling, calling her names, etc.  When she began getting close to the spot, we stopped throwing things at her and changed our taunts to cheers.  “Good job!”  “Awesome!”  “You’re almost there!”  We clapped and hoorayed.  Our classmate found the spot and our teacher stopped his watch.

Who was the winner?  Classmates #1 and #2 both had very similar times.  They were only a few seconds apart.   Classmate #3 found the pencil mark several minutes sooner than classmates #1 or #2.  Classmate #3 was easily the winner.

The point of the exercise was very clear:  when managing, people work best in an environment with rewards for hard work well done, and discipline or penalties for work done poorly.

Why do I bring all this up?  I’ve found that this can easily be applied to homeschooling.  No, I’m not suggesting that we call our children names and throw wads of paper at them when they’re not doing their work!  I have noticed, however, that my children are much more motivated to do their work when I put a reward and a consequence in place.

For example, one of my children seems to get distracted very easily.  If a Lego is nearby he’ll start playing with it.  If a ball is nearby he’ll start bouncing it.  Give him his notebook and he’ll start doodling.  I was getting frustrated because it was taking him hours to finish something that could easily be done in 1 hour.

I prayed about it and sat my son down.  He loves playing on the computer so that seemed to be the best thing to use to motivate him.  “Look,” I said, “From now on I’m going to give you 15 minutes every day to play on the computer.  If you finish this particular subject in 1 hour or less and you’ve done a good job, I’ll give you an extra 15 minutes on the computer for the day.  If it takes you more than an hour and a half to finish, you will lose all of your computer time for the day.

Starting the next day we began setting the timer for his assignments.  Initiating the reward and the consequence worked like a charm.  He is now consistently doing his work in a reasonable amount of time.  Yes, we still have bad days from time to time.  But overall, there has been a tremendous improvement in his work ethic.  When my other son was younger I went out to the store and bought a huge pack of baseball cards.  We used a similar method but used baseball cards as the motivator and loss of dessert as a punishment.

Actually, when I look at scripture, I see that the Lord often used the same methods with the Israelites.  He promised them blessings if they followed His commands, but curses, plagues, and troubles if they did not.  (See verses above.)  So what began as a lesson for my son in being diligent with Mom’s instructions, became a reminder lesson to me in following God’s commands as well.  When I follow His ways things will go well with me and my family.  When I choose another path I will encounter trouble and hardships.

Deuteronomy 4:40 “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

Lord, help me to follow your ways each day, that it may go well with me and my family, and so that my life will point my children to the Creator of their souls.  Amen.

Copyright October 17th, 2012 by Gwen Fredette

All scripture taken from NIV (New Internation Version)

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