Raising kids is hard. If you even make it past the toddler stage where your child battles you to put on pants almost every day of the week, a stage that happens to be kicking my ass right now, your resolve will soon wear down. There's no telling what you'll do by the time your kids reach tween and teen age, where you are dealing with mini adults who still refuse to do what you say.
The parents of 11-year-old Jon Sarisky had the right idea. Jon was promised the whopping sum of $500 if he could abstain from all sugary drinks, including soda, for an entire year. Jon and his older brother Andrew were offered this conniving contract early last year: Rick and Renée Shifley told their sons that they could each have $100 on the spot or could earn $500 by committing to give up soda for an entire year.
This is the kind of challenge that separates the men from the boys. Or, maybe it just parallels a biblical story of brothers that I have read before. Older brother Andrew chose immediate gratification, i.e., the $100. Younger brother Jon chose to develop his character and stick to the no-soda plan for a full 365 days, starting on Jan. 3, 2014. Jon completed the challenge $500 richer.
Jon's parents are no dopes. They made it clear in the contract that Jon could only earn the $500 by drinking water or plain milk for an entire year. The contract stated, "For the purposes of this contract, the term 'drink' means to take a liquid into the mouth by means of a cup, bottle, straw or any other such device normally used for drinking. Consuming cereal, soup and other such liquid foods is considered 'eating,' not drinking."
So this is where the dilemma comes in. Is this amazing or just amazingly lazy parenting? There are plenty of people who would say that your child should obey your wishes without dangling a $500 carrot over their head. There are also plenty of people who argue that a challenge like this is useless, since young Jon revealed that he planned to spend his $500 on soda.
But I disagree. Successful parenting is a long con. You may think that you have no idea what you are doing and that you are bungling your way through it all, and you probably are. You may think that your child has learned absolutely nothing when they choose to spend their reward on a sugary soda after all that hard work.
A challenge like the no-soda contract may seem silly or even lazy, but it plants the seed. Parents like the Shifleys should be commended — not for bribing their child but for teaching him to make adult decisions and honor his word.
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