Thursday, July 25, 2013

Goals not met

Before children I was a complete sanctimommy who looked down upon the notion that, in competitions or awards ceremonies, all children much receive a prize. "How will a child ever learn healthy competition if everyone is to get something?" I thought. Some around me told me I would change my competitive ways when I had children of my own. And then I did, but my views didn't really change.

Then Morgan's learning delays, disabilities, diagnosis, etc., all came to light. You would think I would change my mind, but I really didn't. Some might cry "foul" on me for this, but I advocate for so many concessions to be made for my child and I reward him by praise. I don't really want for him to expect there to be a prize or exception to be made for him every time he does something well. Like making it through a store without a meltdown, but not getting a toy for that. It took us a long time to break that mold, we're not going back.

Don't get me wrong, I hate seeing my child disappointed, what parent doesn't? I hurt when my child's feelings are clearly hurt. But what would I be teaching my kid if I demanded that the rules be changed for him? I already do that within the confines of the law and I have zero issues doing that. He needs an IEP in order to get through school. However, I don't feel comfortable saying that this must extend to awards ceremonies or other occasions. I've done this before and I felt like crap. I don't feel good about teaching him this is how life is run.

What brought this up today, while most kids are enjoying their summertime laziness, was Morgan getting into my car in tears on his last day of his reading program. If you've been on my Facebook page for a while, you'll know that the tears aren't new. He's a sensitive kid who is also Autistic. The combination can be tricky. Before he had come outside to the carline, I'd noted that most of the children (In fact, I think all but two or three, including Morgan) had Mardi Gras- type beads around their neck or little toys in their hands.

Morgan, to his credit, was holding his tears in check, but I could see the storm under the surface. He was going to blow and boy, did he. It turned out that the little prizes or beads were for the kids who had finished today with high scores in their reading programs. Morgan, though he'd made high scores in several of the programs throughout the summer, didn't make those scores today. He felt left out because he didn't receive the same accolades the other children did. He did admit to the ST giving him two cupcakes, however, when he'd finished up his programs.

"I feel stupid," he said, "and so left out!"

"Well, bud, here's the thing. You've worked really hard this summer learning how to read, right? And those other kids did, too. However, the goal today was to make high scores. You didn't do that. I'm really sorry you didn't. But you know, you were still rewarded for your work with those cupcakes. You see? And... you're not stupid. You're never stupid. You have to work harder than most kids, but that will never make you dumb. Don't say that, please?"

"Mommy, it's not fair."

Okay, this is where I really hated it for him. Actually, I hated all of it. Morgan has worked very hard this summer. But those other kids? They also worked hard. And, at the end of the day, Morgan was rewarded with two cupcakes for his work. He didn't make his goal, those other children did. He needed to see that.

I reiterated to him that the point today was to make high scores and he didn't do it. That it didn't mean he was "stupid" or anything else, just that he didn't accomplish that one goal. He calmed down fairly quickly (for him) after I explained things. But this has been weighing on my mind.

I feel in my heart that I've done the right thing by not asking for an exception. I'm curious as to if the parents of the other who didn't get prizes did the same thing. Do we, as parents, really need to demand that children are always rewarded, even when goals are not met?

I had promised Morgan a reward this morning, before any of this happened, for all of his dedication and hard work this summer. I gave it to him after because that was fair and just. He could have balked at this whole experimental reading program we tried on him, but he didn't. But I had to wonder as we were picking out his "treat," was this even correct?

Am I falling into the mold of parenting I dislike by teaching my son he'll be rewarded by doing something I fully expect him to do? Is this the same as paying him for grades (Which we don't do; Morgan makes good grades thanks to countless hours of tutoring and hard work on his part. He sometimes is rewarded for that, but we expect him to try his hardest- if that's Cs and Ds, so be it.).

What are your thoughts? How do your practice rewarding?

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