Personal: My Love/Hate relationship with rewards

“I’ve been so good lately…I think I deserve a reward!”

  I hear this statement come out of my wife’s mouth about once a week.  Well, on weeks she hasn’t gotten herself punished, that is.  I would say 95% of the time she’s just playfully joking around, not-so-subtly trying to tell me to notice her oh-so-perfect behavior lately.  The truth is that, for the most part, Chelsea does a very good job of following our rules.  I don’t have to punish often, which is nice.  But, she still says this statement to me from time to time which is either cute or annoying depending on how well my day has gone up to that point.

love-hate-relationship-rewards

  This adorable little statement of hers always reminds me of my love/hate relationship with the concept of rewarding.  There’s a part of me that feels rewards aren’t necessary for following rules that are expected to be followed.  Doing a good job of following the rules is what I expect of both myself and my wife.  Doing a good job of following the rules, in my view, isn’t going above and beyond what is asked — it’s doing what you’re supposed to be doing.  Going above and beyond expectations is what earns a reward, thus my feeling in that regard.

  Another part of me DOES feel rewarding is necessary since acknowledgment of great behavior, even if it’s expected, is important.  I want my wife to know that I DO notice when she’s doing a great job.  I know how lucky I am to have a wife that loves me for who I am, who goes out of her way to take care of me and our boys, who tries her very best to follow all of our rules, who has no major behavior issues, etc., etc., etc.  I notice all of that stuff, and I know it takes a special woman to do everything my wife does on a day-to-day basis.  She should absolutely be acknowledged for all of those things, and rewarded for them.

  So, again, I have a love/hate relationship with rewards and that’s why.  There’s a fine line there.  That fine line is difficult to walk, too.  In our marriage we do use rewards, but I use them sparingly and unexpectedly.  They have a bigger impact when they’re rare and unexpected.  They mean more.  If I were to reward for every little thing my wife does correctly, then she would come to expect rewards all the time.  Our rules wouldn’t mean as much.  It wouldn’t be as important to follow them.  There has to be balance when it comes to rewarding.  

  I’m sure my wife would tell you that I don’t reward her enough.  That’s probably why I get the statement I opened this post with from her about once a week.  She wants me to notice, and she wants rewards.  Understandable.  My job is to reward when the time is right and when it’s appropriate to do so.  It’s on me to set those expectations, and I’m happy with where those expectations are at the moment.

  I love rewarding my wife because it makes her feel noticed and appreciated.  Those two things are obviously very important to both of us and mean a lot to her.  It makes her happy, which in turn makes me happy.  But, I also hate rewarding since it skews expectations and cheapens rules.  Just because I reward my wife for doing a great job of flawlessly following a rule for a given period of time doesn’t mean a reward will result every time that happens.  And my wife knows this.

  The bottom line is this: In our marriage, my wife knows she’ll be rewarded if she does a good job following our rules — she just doesn’t know when it’ll happen.  Her not knowing when keeps her behavior within the parameters of my expectations.  Her not knowing when also makes the rewards more meaningful to her when she gets them. 

  This is how we handle rewarding in our domestic discipline marriage, and from my perspective, it works rather well for us. 

– Clint

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