Thursday, February 19, 2015

incentives for grades, etc + why I believe running is good for my children

When I was growing up, my parents certainly believed in incentives. My dad is a forward-thinking man that's not afraid to do something a little different than everyone else and he is very financially motivated. He would often come up with ideas to try to convince my sister and I to behave a certain way or perform some way in particular. We were paid for good grades and even though that often came in the form of I.O.U. notes in our money jar I was still somehow a good student.

I don't think it was the money alone that convinced me to do well in school although I'm sure it helped. I think overall it was the expectation that my parents had that I do well. Nevertheless, the money didn't hurt their cause and I rarely got a C on a report card and I never got a D or an F.

This is the first year that Julianna has gotten a report card with actual grades on it. In Forsyth County students in Kindergarten through second grade only get report cards with E, S, N, and Us on them but when they finally reach third grade (the big year when state testing begins) their report cards show both a number and a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F).

For Kindergarten, first, and second grade we rewarded Julianna with a special outing every time she received a good report card. We'd let her pick somewhere out of the ordinary that she wanted to go and then we'd do it. Josh just got to come along for fun. Usually she picked roller skating, ice skating, putt-putt, or Chuck E. Cheese. This worked pretty well for us and she never brought home what we considered to be a poor report card.

Now that she's in third grade, receiving actual number grades, and in HAG we really felt like rewarding her with something more when she brought home a first quarter report card that was straight As. Jonathan decided to give her money for each A and she was thrilled.

The new school and the challenge of being in a gifted classroom where suddenly she is not the smartest in the class has been really difficult for Jules. We're a little over halfway through the school year and there have been quite a few nights we've been in tears because she's felt like it has been a lot of work and she's also felt frustration at not understanding new concepts especially when the others in her class seem to understand. Mom and Dad have had added stress from the number of projects required outside of class.

Even so, we've tried to only pressure her to do her best and not worry about her project grades, not worry about the other kids, just be satisfied that's she's done what she's capable of. We've tried to emphasize that grades are important because they impact your future but they're more important because they indicate how YOU can perform and how hard YOU work. I hope we've gotten the point across that the end result is not as important to us as the process she takes to get there. If she's happy with how hard she's worked, then I can be happy with that. She brought home straight As on her second quarter report card and we paid her for those As as well.


A year or so ago when Julianna did the Run for God 5k with us I had the idea that perhaps I should pay her for running. I briefly discussed it with Jonathan and he didn't think it was as good of an idea as I did so we nixed it and went on with life. We all ran the 5k, Julianna placed first in her age group (pictures on that page linked above), and she has run off and on since then (the last year and a half).

Over Christmas break this past year I started thinking about how I could encourage my kids to get moving some more. Again, the idea popped into my head to offer a paid incentive for them to run around the neighborhood with me. Without being in the regular habit of meeting for Run for God, the kids had really gotten out of the habit of exercising at all other than what little they do at school. (What little exercise they actually get at school is a whole other soapbox topic that I could spout off about on another day.) Plus, Julianna had recently taken the dog on several walks and I thought maybe she'd like to do it more if I offered to pay her.

I talked with Jonathan again and he said he would support it if I wanted to pay them $1/mile so I told the kids that I wanted to give them $1 for every mile they ran this year. They seemed indifferent at the time but they weren't going to argue with someone offering to give them money.

Now every time they say they're bored I ask if they want to go run around the neighborhood with me. Most of the time they don't want to go. I still believe that they'll run more this year than if I hadn't offered to pay them.

Here's why I believe my kids should be encouraged to run and rewarded when they do.

I talked about the sense of community that running fosters here. It's important to me that my children see the relationships that running builds. When you feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself it makes you want to be a better person. When you relate to total strangers because you have shared interests it makes you feel good and there's a huge bolster in morale when you receive encouragement from someone who doesn't know you from Adam. My kids may never win awards or break records, I surely don't, but they can also be a part of a special family that cheers for each other and lifts each other up.

Coping With Stress
Running Helps Young Girls Cope With Pre-Teen Stress. We don't often realize it but our kids are under a lot of stress too. "Adolescent girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer anxiety and depression," says the article. "Running skills such as breathing and endurance help girls connect with themselves at a time in their lives when they are under pressure to conform." Anybody can run, but young girls especially can benefit from it.

Builds Confidence and Lifts Mood
Running makes you feel powerful. It makes you feel like you can do anything. When you complete a tough run you get a huge confidence boost and wonder why you ever thought you couldn't do it. When you're thinking, "should have," "could have," or "would have" all the time it's hard to have high self-esteem. On the other hand when you're thinking, "I can't believe I just..." it's hard not it. Plus, I know my husband can take one look at me when I've had a bad day and he'll simply say, "You need to go for a run" and we'll need all the help we can get with mood swings as my daughter enters adolescence.

Running teaches lessons about quitting, endurance, and perseverance, all lessons that could not be more valuable in life.

Heart Health
Running is simply good for our hearts. Our hearts are muscular organs that have to be worked in order to stay strong. Running works our heart muscles and helps us stay fit. Running helps us maintain a healthy weight. In addition, kids who play sports are also less likely to smoke later in life which might prevent heart disease.

Quality Time
My love language is quality time and running with my kids allows us to spend quality time together. We can talk about whatever they want when we run together just like my training group and I complain about our busy weeks, our aches and pains, and discuss the latest books we've read. If they don't already, my kids will come to realize that they have my undivided attention when we run together and that is time well spent.

Healthy Competition
Running teaches you to compete with yourself more than you compete with others. The only person you have to be better than is the person you were yesterday. A mile is a mile no matter if it takes you twelve minutes or six minutes.

Athletes Perform Better in School
Time and time again studies have shown that athletes do better in school. They have higher grades and better attendance. Of course, this goes for all sports but runners are not excluded. When you're involved in sports your coaches encourage (or require) you to keep your grades up. There are extra tutors available. You have to be at school in order to compete in the games. Because you are disciplined enough to be an athlete, you are typically disciplined enough to do well academically.

Running is Flexible
My daughter has played soccer, softball, taken dance, and gymnastics at one point or another and she may or may not stick with those throughout her life but she can always run. She won't have to wait for the season to start and she won't have to wait for the right location or lesson. She can just run. And I hope she does.


I don't think I've ever mentioned it on my blog, but in 2010 when Julianna was just four and a half she ran her first timed race. It was the Mission Mile put on by Fleet Feet and benefited the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission. Jonathan and I did the 5k I believe and Julianna ran the one mile race.

At this point in her life she really hadn't participated in organized sports. She had taken dance and played soccer at a little camp but the girl wanted a trophy or a medal and she hadn't gotten one yet. Honestly, we wanted to do the race so we (selfishly?) talked it up to her and then we ordered her a medal ahead of time since we knew they wouldn't be giving them out for this race. It was only a couple of dollars from Oriental Trading Company.

She ran that whole stinkin' mile until she rounded the corner and came upon the finish line. All of those people gathered at the end cheering near the finish line corral overwhelmed her and scared her to the point of stopping in the middle of the street and refusing to move again for several minutes. Other runners passed us over and over again as we stood there looking at each other, me begging her to move. She turned and would have run off the course if she'd known where to go. I reached for her hand but she wouldn't come forward any more.

I never wanted to write about this publicly because I know it would embarrass her. The thing is that there are few times that I've been as proud of her. Somehow she got over the shock of seeing all of those people looking at her and she finished the race. I don't know how much the medal played a part of her finding the courage to run those last few meters to the finish line, but I do know that it's one thing I told her about to try to encourage her to get going again. For whatever reason, the kid finished her race and we gave Jules her medal. Proudly.

I want to know:
How do you reward your children? 
Do you use incentives to try to encourage your kids to behave a certain way?
Do you think I'm crazy for agreeing to pay my kids $1/per mile run this year?
Finally, how much do you think they've earned so far?


Don't forget about my review of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand or entering the giveaway for a $25 certificate to Family Christian. Hurry! Contest closes Friday at midnight!

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