Is this a dumb idea?

I got ice-cream sandwiches for my kids (ages 9 & 11) on Sunday. Each child got 4 ice-cream sandwiches and this deal. They could eat the sandwiches whenever they wanted, but for every sandwich they had left on Friday they would get $1 and the sandwiches were still theirs to eat whenever they wanted to.
My thought was that this would help them learn self control and that delayed gratification can pay off. My wife thinks this is one of the dumbest ideas I have had.
So where does my plan stand on the idea scale?

It all comes down to if it accomplished your goal.

As a parent of 15 and 12 year olds, I say it might be an interesting experiment. Your kids are old enough to get the idea and have a fighting chance of being able to do it. But, it may not be testing the behavior you think it is- it may be testing relative rewards for that child- is that child’s desire for IC greater than their desire of $1 at that moment. If they eat the IC it may not mean a lack of self control, but that the dollar isn’t as important to them. I also don’t think it can teach self-control. That requires behavior modification over the long haul. It may sample the child’s current state of self control, especially of you use a reward they say they would be willing to not eat IC for a week to get. If they then eat the IC, you know it’s more likely a self control issue.

As long as it is not punitive, it could be fun!

You might want to up the ante. A dollar (or four) doesn’t mean much these days.

I dunno - seems like a bad idea to me. I would think that at 9 and 12, they kind of get the idea that they could eat their entire stash and have nothing until next week, or meter it out and have a little something almost every day. I’m not sure there’s an extra reward warranted for figuring that out.

I’m wondering whether it actually teaches them about self control, or just how to hold off for a week, score the dollars and shove everything that’s left in their gob all at once.

Neutral. I don’t know your kids. Or you, for that matter.

Holding off for a week is self-control. He’s not trying to teach them unmitigated self-denial. I might have pushed it a little further and offered them another $1 to give up the ice cream altogther.

I think it was a good idea, I’m curious as to how it turned out, and I may try something like this with my kids. Except I’ll use Silly Bandz instead of dollars.

I think it would be better if you talked about it with the kids: as mentioned, if they don’t see why the $1 + ice cream is a better choice, they won’t have any reason to strive for it. I would also make the analogy very concrete to them using illustrations from your own life.

I would also teach them techniques of self control: “when you think about the ice cream and really really want it, here are some things you could do to resist: blah blah blah”. Setting a goal and having a kid figure out a method to accomplish it is a good way to have them fail and feel ashamed, but not really have the tools to do better in the future–“Go distract yourself by playing outside” or “Think about what you could buy with the dollar” is much better advice than “Try harder”.

Lastly, I wouldn’t make the reward some sort of food. People develop neurosis and issues around food very, very easily. Food seems to condition people on a primal level. Games like this seem dangerous. Have the reward be a toy or something: “Don’t play with this Lego set all week and you get $1: if you open the box before then, you get to keep it, but no dollar.”

Geez…I was about to say that maybe he should drop the dollar down to a quarter. If they got 4 quarters at the end of the week, they could play the jukebox down at the malt shop all afternoon.

Obligatory Simpsons clip

It just seems weird to me. Plus, the idea of giving someone food but also rewarding them for not eating it…for some reason, I get an increased risk of eating disorder vibe…

I’m not sure it is, when it’s for an external reward, rather than the simple satisfaction of knowing you could actually do it all on your own.

And what if there are, say 3 ice creams left, and the minute you get the bucks, you vacuum 'em in one after the other. Does waiting for that week prove self-control?

It seems more like an experiment than a lesson. I admit to being curious about the results but i doubt it will teach them anything.

Just pondering what might keep one child from sneaking an ice cream, saying the other child snarfed it, getting the money and the ice cream at the end of the week and generally screwing over their sibling. Good idea in my book. Parents, when in doubt, turn the kids against each other. It keeps them from ganging up on you.

When I was a kid my grandfather tried to keep me from drinking too many sodas. I was only allowed to have 2 a day, and if I didn’t drink them they did not roll over to the next day. I didn’t get a reward either.

When they hold off for a week to get $4, buy a box of 6 for $2.99 and keep a dollar your mission is complete.

Associating food with rewards and privileges, self-denial tests and competitions of delayed gratification is the first step to setting up a very bad (and sadly typical) relationship with food and eating. There is no virtue in delayed gratification where food is concerned, anyway. It’s a horrible idea.

This reminds me of the marshmallow experiment:

We are talking about ice cream bars, which are a specific subset of food known as “treats,” i.e., things one can live without but are nice to eat on occasion. Therefore, I don’t think the concerns you’ve raised are all that valid. We aren’t talking about the classic “finish all your dinner or you don’t get dessert.”

I think a lot of people do have these problems with sweet foods, too, though. Like, classifying foods as “good” or “bad” and feeling guilty when they eat foods that are “bad.” I don’t see the point of delaying gratification. I think seeing food as a reward is kind of dangerous. It’s not like you should eat when you’ve been “good” (or bored or upset, etc.). I mean, when I eat something, it’s not tied in to my emotional state–it’s tied in to whether I’m hungry or not.