For several months I've been taking a fish oil supplement to help my bad knees and maybe my brain, too. I've never been much of a runner because it kills my knees, and now I can feel the joints scraping when I walk up stairs. And my memory, which used to be sharp, was pretty much shot by late nights with five babies.
The main problem with taking a supplement to help memory...is remembering to take it!
Kent is kind enough to bring me a fish oil capsule when he takes one with dinner, so my brain has never had to form that habit. However, I want to take a capsule in the morning, too, because I actually notice less popping in my knees when I double the consumption. So last night at dinner, Kent pointed out that I don't have to remember to take the morning capsule. "With the right incentive, the kids can remember all sorts of stuff," he said. The children all nodded in agreement.
It turns out the right incentive is a chocolate-covered raisin. The kids bargained for two raisins if they bring the capsule to me with a cup of water, rather than just giving a reminder. (Don't tell my children they are underpaid, okay?) We agreed that the first child to remind me about fish oil, sometime after devotional but before leaving for school, would be the daily winner.
Did it work?
This morning, the children all dragged themselves to devotional and sleepily participated as usual. As soon as the prayer was ended and I asked them to get dressed for school, the following scene ensued:
#2 said, "Okay, but first you have to take your fish oil."
#3 jumped off the couch: "No! I was going to remind her."
#2, seeing her competition, also leaped up and made a run to beat her sister to the medicine box above the kitchen stove: "No way! I reminded her first."
#3 had reached the kitchen ahead of #2 and was already filling a cup with water: "But I'm bringing the fish oil to her!"
I turned, wide-eyed, to Kent who was still sitting beside me on the couch. We were both grinning.
#2 pulled open the cabinet doors, looking for the very large bottle of capsules: "It's not here! Where is it?!" Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw #3 set down the water and lift an overturned pot that had been left to dry overnight with the hand-washed dishes.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "This account can't be true. Mary is claiming to have clean dinner dishes before morning! No way." It's true I tell you. I even gathered photographic evidence to prove it. Sure, most of those dishes were from dinner three nights ago; but they were clean and drying before bedtime last night. Ahem. Let's continue.
#3, carefully lifting the pot: "I hid them so I could be the first to remind mom!"
And yes, all these exclamation marks are true. Their excitement and nervousness had them yelling every sentence. (!)
Kent to me: "You see? They can remember all sorts of things for small rewards."
I had to admit this was working incredibly well. I hadn't given my kids--who can't seem to remember that the van leaves at 8:10 each morning to go to school, and so end up chasing the in-motion van out the driveway with coat, socks, shoes, and sometimes a backpack in hand--enough credit.
#2, not ready to lose her chance at a chocolate-covered raisin, snatched the cup of water and speed-walked it to me: "I got it to you first!"
#3, running shortly behind: "No you didn't! I have the fish oil!"
#2: "That's because you hid it! That's not fair."
#3: "I thought of it first!"
#2: "No you didn't! I thought of it before devotional, but I couldn't remind Mom until after devotional."
#3: "But I thought of it last night. Look! I even wrote it on my hand so I would remember!"
That took the cake! Kent and I were quite impressed. I had to interrupt, thank them both, and reward them both. They each earned two chocolate-covered raisins. Spending two raisins more than I had planned was worth learning how effective rewards can be, AND how responsible my children can be when properly motivated.
(Now how do I get them to remember their chores and homework?)