Neal Rodriguez and his wife, Kelis, love making videos about their family life, and recently, good old Dad decided to prank the hell out of his sons. Of course it was all caught on video.
SheKnows caught up with Rodriguez, who explained that he owed each of his boys — Lance is 8, and Christopher is 5 — a Transformer toy for the outstanding work they had done in school for the past three weeks. He knew that Lance had shown an interest in filming reviews of his toys, so Rodriguez suggested they do an “unboxing” video of their rewards. “We’re a playful bunch, so I said, why not get a quick laugh?” he said. “I replaced the toy in Christopher’s box with a bag of beans, which he hates eating, and I replaced the toy in Lance’s box with a bag of celery, which he won’t eat.”
The results were definitely over the top, which Rodriguez expected. “They can get very dramatic when they’re upset or are totally expressing themselves, so I was sure it would be good,” he told SheKnows.
It was very good. The kids are quite outraged, with Lance shouting about how hard he’d worked for his reward. Both are soon mollified, however, by their dad giving them the toys they’d earned.
Rodriguez says the reactions he’s getting from the video are pretty varied. Some think it’s hilarious, but not everyone does. “Some say that the kids are spoiled for crying and that I reinforced that behavior by giving them their toys,” he said. “I don’t think so, for they did work pretty hard to deserve to be given the toys.” He notes that they don’t typically act like that when they don’t get what they want, so he couldn’t really be mad at them for freaking out in a such a big way — after all, they worked hard and were really looking forward to their rewards.
The Rodriguez family places a lot of emphasis on respect, hard work and doing well in school. “The reason I push my kids is because, without exaggeration, I grew up with people that were very dangerous in the late ’80s and early ’90s — Jamaica, Queens, New York, when it was a drug-infested haven for violence, robbery and prostitution,” he told SheKnows. “Just to give you an example, a local junior high school teacher smoked crack in my neighborhood. Some of my peers ended up dead, in prison, on the street or simply unemployable. I know that could happen to anybody, and education is the only escape from a life of utter despair.”
He says that he, as such, has a vested interest in his sons’ schoolwork, monitors their homework and has even taken to YouTube to educate himself on Common Core methods, since (as with many parents) this was not the process used when he was growing up. He has instituted a pretty efficient rewards system as well. “What I will do, at times, is offer to reward them after behaving for a couple of weeks,” he explains. “When I place the order, it takes a week or two to get here, and they know they have to behave while the toy is in transit — otherwise, they won’t get it. This probably happens around five or six times a year, and they have to really work for it.”
So this really cute, over-the-top video is the result of a system that two parents have put in place to help their boys grow up in the best way possible. Rodriguez knows what hard work can do to change the course of someone’s life — he says he is living proof of that — and he wants to keep giving his kids the chance to excel and have fun while they’re at it.