A post-game snapshot after Cooper's final soccer game of the season.
I smiled and agreed. Cooper spent the entire game running around the field like the Energizer Bunny. It was as if a magnetic pull kept his feet within close proximity to the ball. No opponent or obstacle seemed to hinder his drive to move the ball towards his goal. (Side note: That being said, we're still working on the concept that soccer is not an individual sport, but rather a team sport!)
Those parents on the sidelines that watched Cooper's entire soccer season may be scratching their heads over Cooper's dramatic increase in playing ability. Some may attribute it to practice or maturity, but I know better.
Several weeks ago, Chis came home from one of Cooper's games discouraged. He griped about Cooper's apathy towards the game. He lamented the fact that Cooper spent most of the game gazing at the sky and fiddling with his nostrils. In pure frustration, Chris offered Cooper a deal. He promised Cooper a Skylander's figure if Cooper could make ten goals during the remainder of the season.
At the next game, Cooper played like a pint-sized David Beckham. He was no longer interested in the dandelions that flanked the field, but his singular focus was on the goal.
The other parents were amazed at his dramatic transformation, but I was not. I'd smile at the comments, but never reveal Cooper's true motivation. I felt a bit like I was holding onto a dirty little secret, like I just stepped over some parenting line that I shouldn't have crossed.
It's something I struggle with as a parent. Yes, it's effective, but does it hinder the real motivation I want my children to have in life: an inner gumption and drive to do the right thing and their best at any and all activities?
Sometimes I call it "positive rewards." That term has a softer, more respectable tone. I remind myself that even as adults we work for "positive rewards." After all, employees are positively rewarded for good work with bonuses, raises, and promotions. Can't kids be too?
But I want to instill in my kids that we work hard because we can and we should. And as Christians, we work hard because God commands us to work for His glory. ("Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Col. 3:23)
But I'm not sure a six year old (at least my six year old) quite grasps those concepts. My six year old will work for a Skylander's figure.*
I tell myself that, although bribed, Cooper will feel the satisfaction of working hard and begin to shoot for that "high" even without a special toy or treat dangling over his head.
That's what I tell myself. We'll see.
*When I finally revealed my little secret to a few other soccer moms, the truth tumbled out. The other little boys were playing for Lego sets and icy treats.