Who gets the prize?

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I spent a week, well, actually five days filling out a form. Every night I had to fill in the title, the author, and the amount of time spent reading on this form.
It was called a reading log. It wasn’t my reading log, it was my kindergartner’s.
But, since my K-Kid couldn’t write yet and I wasn’t about to take the time at the end of a long day to teach him how to fill out this form - I did it. Every night “we” filled it out. I lie.
There were some nights that we didn’t read. So I faked it. Sometimes we got busy and by the time it was bedtime, I felt it better to get my kid in bed rather than read and of course I was the reader. So, I fudged sometimes.
That’s beside the point. My little boy would take this form to school, in his folder in his backpack and I am assuming someone would take it out of his folder and then he got a prize! He got a prize!
He came home with a pizza coupon. I stared at that coupon for a long time. I held that thing in my hand and all these crazy feelings coursed through me.
Envy. Anger. Pride. Pride? Disdain. Surprise. Disappointment.
Envy because my kid got a prize for his mom doing all the work. Anger because he got a prize for his mom doing all the work.
Pride because he got a prize and I didn’t fail him, I got that form in on time. Disdain because my kid got a prize. Surprise because, yeah, my kid got a prize. Disappointment because I was having all these stupid and immature feelings about my kid getting a prize.
I teach high school. I had this kid that was habitually late to class. Finally one day he came to class early and bopped up to my desk and announced his presence and asked for a prize. I shooed him away.
Recently I had to fill out a form, you know those green forms they send home to find out if we live on government property?
Well, my son’s teacher let us parents know that if our kid brought the form back the next day they would get a prize.
I got snippity. I have to wash dishes, cook dinner, bathe;’kl kids, drive here and there, help with homework or whatever, pick up, get ready for the next day, etc. You know the routine.
I figure I should get the prize because on top of all my other responsibilities, I have to fill out a form and make sure it gets put in my kids folder in his backpack so he can get a prize ... I asked him if he got his prize and I guess his teacher told him that it was my job to do all that stuff because I am the mom.
EXACTLY! It is my job and I get no prize, I rarely get a thank you. It is my job and I do what I do because it is what I am supposed to do.
The student that came to class on time, he did what he was supposed to do. Why should he expect a prize?
A form came back to school in my kid’s backpack, Why should he get a prize?
I filled out a reading log, sometimes dishonestly, should my kid get a prize?
Sometime ago the reading logs ended. I was happy about that. But, my son is still getting rewards for things he should be doing. Why should he?
I get it. I understand the whole reward the positive behavior thing, but there needs to be a line drawn between positive behavior and doing what you are supposed to do.
Let’s get back to the point. The point is that our kids are getting a prize or a reward or a treat for doing what they should be doing. I understand that the teacher feels that they are rewarding good behavior, but the truth is they are rewarding the kid for their parents’ good behavior.
When a child is asked to do something that is not in their ability yet, the parent will do it. The kid will go to school and get a treat. As they grow, this kid will come to expect a reward for any small achievement, even if it is not their own.
Is this what we want? Do we want to raise our kids this way? Don’t we want them to feel the reward for hard work? Will I get a prize for writing this column?
Probably not.

Christine Bernstein
Los Alamos columnist