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contract

Jack fills his time in a techie way. When he's bored playing a video game, he watches walk throughs on YouTube. When he's bored watching walk throughs, he records his own walk through. When he's bored recording, he watches Smosh on YouTube. When he's bored with that, he might watch the Nintendo Channel on the Wii.

That's how, on Sunday afternoon, he discovered Chrono Trigger, an RPG created by the Final Fantasy team and released in 1995. It's now downloadable for 500 Wii points ($5).

After discovering Chrono Trigger, Jack researched it on YouTube. He watched several walk throughs. He decided he wanted it.

He had 300 Wii points.

He brainstormed ways he could earn more Wii points. He emphatically stated that practicing piano wasn't something he should do to earn Wii points, because it's something he should do anyway. But he resists practicing. He doesn't want to practice, which is precisely why consistent piano practice could earn him Wii points.

We had a long back and forth. He suggested that he could empty the dishwasher. (But there aren't any dishes in it.) He could take out the trash. (I did that this morning.) He could help with the laundry. (OK. We need to do laundry.) But he wanted the game now. Isn't that instant gratification? What if we made a contract? He didn't want to. I made one anyway.

I agree to pay for $10 worth of Wii points on the following conditions:
  1. Jack helps me with the laundry.
  2. Jack cleans the catbox (with my help) on Monday.
  3. Jack empties the dishwasher on Tuesday.
  4. Jack practice piano for 15 minutes on Monday and Tuesday.
Signed....
I agree to these conditions.
Signed....
Jack looked at the contract and threw a mild fit, which prompted me to leave the apartment to go check the mail. When I returned, he was practicing piano.

After 15 minutes of practicing, he pulled the laundry basket out of the closet. I coached him on how to sort, check all the pockets, gather the necessary items, and walk it all over to the laundry room. He inserted the coins, measured the soap, loaded the machines, and insisted we wait until the washers filled and the cycles began. When it was time to load the dryers, he cleaned the lint traps of all the dryers in the laundry room, loaded the clothes, put in the dryer sheets, inserted the coins, started the cycles.

Then, 48 minutes later, we went back to the laundry room and with my coaching he folded all of his own clothes. We loaded the basket and headed back to the apartment.

"Mommy, I'm not going to sign that contract yet," he said.

"Why not? You want the game tonight, don't you?"

"Yeah. But I'm not sure I can do all of those things."

"You don't sign it, you don't get the game tonight, right?"

We discussed consequences for what might happen if he signed the contract, got the game, then didn't honor the conditions of the contract. He came up with some very authentic consequences. But by the end of the evening he still hadn't signed the contract and he still didn't get the game.

This morning, right after waking, he asked me to show him how to scoop the catbox. I showed him. After washing his hands, he sat down and practiced piano for 15 minutes. When he was done, he said, "Do you think I can do those other things tomorrow?"

"What I think doesn't matter. Do you think you can do them?" I said.

"Yeah."

He went and signed the contract. I bought him the Wii points.

We're both learning.

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