Gymnast of the week and why bribery works

The big one has taken up gymnastics again, much to my delight. I’m certainly not a pushy, competitive mother (see this post)but I felt genuinely sad that she’d given it up because she was actually rather good at it. When she became a toddler, I entertained visions of her being one of those cute ballerina girls with a pink tutu and frilly bobbles in her hair. In reality, at the age of three, she was more interested in rolling on the ground sucking her thumb than playing good toes, naughty toes. She was too physical and energetic for ballet, so gymnastics semed perfect. At the age of four, she was adept at balancing on the beam and becoming quite the expert on the parallel bars. The only problem was the baby. When he was born, he spent the entire 45 minutes we spent stuck in traffic on the way there SCREAMING and then screamed through the hour long lesson and just for good measure, guess what he did on the way home? Yup, he SCREAMED. So when the big one decided she’d had enough, I’ll admit I was relieved. See, not pushy.
Anyway, we found a class closer to home, at a more convenient time and so far so good. Until last week.
The big one discovered there was such a thing as ‘gymnast of the week’ and that the chosen person was to be rewarded with the smallest, tinniest looking, dirty little trophy. Oh, how that trophy has been coveted ever since!

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The entire half term break has been peppered constantly with
‘I want that trophy’
‘I want to be gymnast of the week’
‘It’s not fair, I never win anything’
etc, etc.
So we practised. Cartwheels, splits, the bridge, you name it. And you know what? Hard work pays off!! Also, bribery works a treat. I already knew this, with stickers and merits regularly being my weapon of choice at work. I also already knew that the big one was really determined- especially, apparently, when it came to dirty looking trophies. Bribery has turned my daughter into a focused little person with the light of trophies and the status of gymnast of the week shining in her eyes. How proud she was when her name was called! How hard I clapped! How genuinely shocked she looked, for a moment, until she realised that actually, she deserved it. She worked hard for that trophy. She strived to get it and she deserved it.
I have been asking myself though, would she have worked so hard if there wasn’t a reward at the end of it? I think the answer is no. But then, don’t we all do stuff for the rewards at the end? Aren’t we all in it for the gains we can reap in the end? Does anyone ever really perform a totally selfless task? Sure, as parents we think we might, but really we all achieve something in the end. Even if geting up in the middle of the night SEEMS totally selfless, don’t we actually enjoy those midnight cuddles too? Maybe the big one isn’t the only one that is totally swayed by bribery. It works, by the way.


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