When the possibility of seeing your enemy triumph is the best motivator of all

I’m struggling to figure out if there’s a larger message to the true story I’m about to tell, or if it just reflects the virulent sibling rivalry that my children feel towards each other.  As my daughter herself said when she realized how successful the new regime is, “We’re not very nice people, are we?”

I believe in chores, but my children don’t.  Carrot or stick, nothing motivated.  With all their material needs satisfied, working for money had charm for a week or two; and with limits to the punishments I can impose (thanks CPS), I didn’t scare them much with threats, either.  That is, nothing motivated them until this past weekend, when I came up with the most fiendishly clever plan evah!  Here’s the deal:

Each child is responsible for a specific area, with the child’s daily allowance of fifty cents contingent on that responsibility.  My son got the kids’ bathroom; my daughter got the kitchen table and environs.  Both spots have been the source of running battles about messy behavior.  Significantly, these battles have been between the kids themselves, with each child going ballistic about the other’s toothpaste stains or dirty dishes.

Rather than getting better after this division of labor, the battles intensified:  “She’s left her mess all over the bathroom counter so I can’t clean.”  “His dirty plates are on the table so I can’t clean.”  A work strike seemed imminent.  And then — a flash of evil genius struck.  Here’s how it goes:

If my son cleans the bathroom, he gets fifty cents.  If he is unable to clean the bathroom because of my daughter’s mess, he still gets fifty cents.  In other words, her behavior means he gets something for nothing.  On the other hand, if my son fails to clean the bathroom, my daughter gets fifty cents.  In other words, his behavior means she gets something for nothing.  The exact same principles apply to the kitchen, with my daughter receiving payment for doing nothing should my son leave a huge mess behind, while my son gets payment for doing nothing should my daughter fail in her duties.

I have never seen the kids so galvanized.  It’s one thing to walk away from their own money, which they’ve been willing to do time and time again.  It’s another thing entirely to see money go into an undeserving sibling’s pocket — and to know that it’s entirely your fault that your good-for-nothing brother or sister got unjustly enriched.  Considering what a powerful motivator this plan is, you can see why my daughter concluded that she and her brother aren’t very nice people.

As for me, as I said at the start of this post, I’m wondering if there’s a larger lesson to be learned here about human nature, the relationship between citizens and their government, national security, whatever….  As always, I value your input.

And here’s something amazing:  I was able to find, on the internet, a video of my children at war.