How Paying My Kids $50 Helped Me Lose Weight, Sleep Better and Release My Inner Flosser
Dear NYC Guitar School Parent,
Would you pay $50 to have incredibly better dental hygiene? How about paying $50 to get way better sleep? And the weight loss industry in the United States is a 66 billion dollar industry–so would it be worth $50 to you to lose a few pounds?
I’ve done all of the above, for a total cost of less than $50!
It started about a decade ago when I read that billionaire Warren Buffet offered to pay his kids $1000 each if he ever weighed over a certain weight. The thought of losing that $1000 was enough for him to stay trim(ish) so he got to weigh less and keep his money!
Since my dentist had just said, “Uh, Dan–maybe you should try flossing once in a while!” I decided to adapt his idea to have a healthier mouth by offering my three kids $1000 each if I failed to floss.
However, after several seconds of deep reflection on my bank balance, and more importantly on my track record of regular flossing, I reduced the penalty amount to $1.
The way it worked is that my kids could ask me anytime if I had flossed, and if I hadn’t done so in the last 24 hours, I had to pay. The first year I missed quite a few times. My imperfect self-discipline was compounded when the kids realized it was hilarious (and profitable) to hide my floss, so sometimes flossing took up to half an hour of intense searching in closets, under beds, and in crawl spaces. I paid about $50 over the first couple of years due to my flossing negligence and their floss hiding skill.
However, now my flossing habit is on serious, months-without-missing-style lockdown, due in equal parts to:
1. A now deeply ingrained flossing habit
2. Multiple strategically hidden floss stashes inside and outside of the house
–so there’s no more fun or money to be had in the flossing department.
Luckily, opportunities for self-improvement are infinite. A few years ago I began leaving my phone on the kitchen counter at night to get better sleep. It worked so well that I decided to make my three kids leave their phones on the counter, too. I thought that losing your phone for a day would be an appropriate penalty for breaking this rule and generously offered forfeit my own phone if I failed to follow the rule. “No, Dad,” they said, “we want cash.” So sleeping next to my phone would cost me $20, multiplied by three kids. Ouch!
It turns out that for me, $60 is more than enough to get my attention–over the past two years I’ve had to pay exactly zero times (although I’ve gotten to confiscate my kids’ phones on probably a dozen occasions).
I found out that psychologists call deals like this “commitment devices.” My latest is a pledge not to eat after 9:30pm. This time, my 15-year-old daughter insisted on writing up a 2 page contract, specifying flavors of seltzer that I can drink after 9:30pm without penalty, applying a usurious interest rate if I fail to pay my $25 fine within 2 hours, and making the contract effective for my entire lifetime. I was able to negotiate a one year term with an option to renew and delay late payment penalties until the next day, but she wouldn’t budge on the Black Cherry-Lime seltzer provision.
So now, I’ve dropped 4 pounds since January 1st, and the girls have taken up evening baking as a hobby. They like to leave delicious smelling chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen counter at 9:29pm, right where I put my phone.
So there you have it! Enrich your kids, or at least torture them with the promise of easy money, while you get better teeth, better sleep, and better health!
On to Greatness In Parenting And Guitar,
NYC Guitar School Founder
P.S. For more on our family phone rule read this blog post.
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