As you have read, I am all about positive reinforcements, little treats, bribes, whatever. We live in a culture that appreciates affirmation and extrinsic motivation, and I suppose I am supporting that in this next generation that my children will belong to.
With this in mind, my kids are very familiar with the term "Stroller Treat." This is the special gift they will receive/earn for getting into the stroller, without arguing or complaining, although they would far rather walk. A Stroller Treat can be anything from two fresh grapes on a day when the diaper bag is freshly packed, or a broken graham cracker on a less prepared day. One never knows what the treat will be.
And that's the beauty of it: they don't know what they will get, but they eagerly obey in hopes of something grand. I'm sure there are many things wrong with this parenting philosophy, but it works for us in this season. When it stops working or they start demanding, we'll change the plan. For now, everyone gets in the stroller.
Tonight, we had a family dinner at the mall food court. The boys each enjoyed a kids' meal from Chick-fil-A... gotta love the chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, fruit cup, fries, and educational toy. I can always count on Chick-fil-A to give a prize that's worth giving a second glance. We have many books, games, and even some CD-ROMs, thanks to the blessed folks at the restaurant which closes on Sundays. I'm a big fan.
Smart mom that I am, I snatched up those educational toys, saving them for the post-meal transition. I had just acquired two Stroller Treats.
After they finished their meals, faces and hands were hereby cleaned and ready to stroll, I announced the plan: "Stroller Treats for everyone who obeys! In the stroller with two little boys, and you get your special Stroller Treat!"
They jumped at the chance to obey their mother, whom they adore... or more likely, they were eager to find what hid inside the cellophane. As I buckled them in, Robb unpacked the Treats.
Get this: Bookends.
Seriously?? That's the treat for today? Each of my children gets a bookend??
I mean, I get the educational value, I suppose. Sure, they must need bookends to properly organize and shelve their ever growing library of board books. But come on, Chick-fil-A. Beyond that, where's the fun in a bookend??
But, not to be outdone or defeated, I turned on my Merry Sunshine voice, and we got so excited about the Stroller Treat to top all others. Woohoo! Bookends!!
The boys each took a bookend in their little hands, with tremendous gratitude in their little hearts. And they held them. Because what else is there to do with a bookend, when you have neither a book nor a shelf?
But guess what? They were in their stroller. And off we went, and shop we did.