The father sitting across from me is genuinely bewildered. He doesn’t understand what his wife is talking about. The immediate issue seems to be what it takes to get their three boys (ages 10, 9, and 7) to clean their rooms on Saturday mornings.
“You talk to him,” Anika said to me. “I can’t get through. He just doesn’t get it that bribing the kids to clean their rooms is a terrible idea.”
“Hold on,” said Jack. “You wanted me to take charge of the Saturday chores and that’s what I’m doing. You have to admit that it’s getting done now.”
“Yeah. But only because you promise them a trip to Red Lobster for lunch if they do it.” Anika was barely keeping her voice civil.
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Jack. “I get paid money for work. They get paid with a lobster roll. I don’t see why we had to come to a counselor just about fish.”
Anika turned to me. “You see what I’m dealing with? He doesn’t get it. Two weeks ago, they were satisfied with McDonald’s. Now it’s Red Lobster. The oldest has started to lobby for a trip to get ice cream after lunch for him to keep cooperating. He says he doesn’t care what his room looks like so if his dad wants him to straighten it up, he has to make it worth his time. And the other two are following his lead. Where will it end?”
Jack shook his head. “I told the kids that they can’t get a pay increase every week. They have to do their rooms for a month without complaining to get more. I figure that’s fair.”
“Ho-boy,” I thought. “This is going to be difficult. Jack has a point that money makes the world go around. But Anika is right to be concerned. Their boys have already figured out they can negotiate more out of Dad – just for doing the very basic routines of life. Bribery does work. But I’m with Anika on this one. Where will it all end? Filet mignon at the Ritz? More important, what are the kids learning from the situation?”