I’ve fed into this thinking up until the last couple of years. To coax my child into being good, I’ve said there was a Santa Claus watching his every move and tallying up his bad behaviors with demerit marks. I really didn’t think that it was detrimental to tell him all about Christmas and getting gifts until he started telling me when he would break or lose his toys that “it’s okay, Santa will just bring me a new one”. I had to tell him right then and there that I was Santa and no, I was not buying him another of whatever toy he didn’t take care of. He should have taken care of his toys if they were that important and I wasn’t going to give another knowing he had already been careless in the first place. Of course, he didn’t like hearing that.
However, I know that it is nice to have an incentive to do good things and to be rewarded. I’m not going to balk at a raise or a bonus at work. I still try to reward my son for good grades and good behavior but at the same time, I’m trying to teach him that doing the right thing is a reward far beyond anything material or monetary. I want him to know that it’s good for him on the inside. I want him to build character. My parents instilled a sense of pride and integrity into me, to be proud of my work, to put my best effort into it and not to be recognized by others or care what they thought to get a stamp of approval but that I can be satisfied I did the best I could. They taught me I didn’t NEED the reassurance from outside myself, I had all that I needed inside myself.
That’s a hard concept to really get across when the world around us is following a set of societal rules and constantly updating to the next best thing with many people seeming to be caught up in the pursuit of the pursuit of happiness i.e. the "rat race", the endless pursuit of working toward some goal or a prize and then, more than likely, another bigger prize. I really can’t compete with that. The conditioning starts early.
I wish I had known to open my eyes sooner about this. Maybe I wouldn’t be coming to this place in my life realizing that all I have worked for really isn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be. Isn’t this what life is supposed to be? Get through school, get a job, buy a house, and have a family? Isn’t my white picket fenced house where it’s at? No. It’s the epitome of the rat race and unfortunately, I realize, it started, at least for me, in childhood and progressed into an idea that what I’m looking for wasn’t any of those monetary and material things; the prizes of a “successful” life.
I’m redefining success for my life and along the way showing my son there’s another way for fulfillment and it’s not just about getting rewarded to do what others deem the norm. I want him to find the reward within.