Many of you know my nephew, Seth. Seth is in the military and is overseas on his third deployment His family will pray for him constantly during this tour of duty. The following is a story from June of 2007. Education and coaching revolves around motivating children. My brother and sister-in-law incorporated a unique reward in potty-training their second child. I was a witness.
There is a half-eaten bag of Skittles, an end of the year gift from a student, on my desk as we speak. I don't eat that much candy so it might take some time for me to finish. I have yet to meet a small child who doesn't like Skittles. They are sweet, colorful, and like many children's products, have imaginative commercials that could pass for kids' programming. With five colors representing five flavors, Original Skittles have been sold in the US for more than thirty years, originating in Great Britain. This spring, the confection made headlines when a Dallas man stole a semi-trailer loaded with a quarter of a million dollars worth of Skittles. That's a whole lot of little red bags!
It sounded like a good idea. My brother, Scott, and his lovely wife, Karen, decided to be imaginative when they potty trained my nephew, Seth. They devised a reward system to reinforce Seth's positive behavior. Placing a miniature potty by the regulation-size toilet in the bathroom, they promised Seth a Skittles every time he used the mini-facility instead of his diapers. B.F. Skinner, the creator of operant conditioning, would have been proud of Scott and Karen. Their plan worked. In fact, it worked too well! My brilliant nephew figured out how to work the system so before long, he was going ten times an hour. To his chagrin, the test program was terminated before any long-term data could be gathered. Scott and Karen, with another chapter added to their parenting resume', returned to the more traditional method of toilet training.
In my most recent sermon to our Chinese group, I preached from Matthew 6:1-4 where Jesus spoke about how and why we give. The religious leaders gave but with an eye towards the praise of the community. The adulation they received from the crowd would be the extent of their reward. The Savior continues his thought by teaching our giving should be done without thought of fanfare and that the honor would come from the Father whose eye is on everything we do. When kids are little, we make a big deal of them putting money into the collection plate. I saw it this Sunday morning when Mike Marsh could not get his son, Wren, to drop his contribution into the basket. Several months shy of his third birthday, it's understandable that Wren doesn't quite get the concept yet. He will. Giving for the right reason- because God loved us first- will take some time. Seth, now heading into his second year of college, outgrew the need for Skittles. As adults, we still struggle with wanting Skittles in our efforts to be charitable to the less fortunate. We just call it public recognition.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Give me a child and I'll shape him into anything."
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