September 24, 1997 in City

Rewarding Bad Behavior Sends Wrong Message

Janice Keith Special To Opinion
 

After college, I worked at lucrative corporate jobs. My third child’s arrival heralded the “Big Bucks vs. Babies” dilemma. The babies won.

Some parents are not permitted this choice, and both working moms and stay-at-home moms can produce fine offspring. But, my four children are well cared for, well behaved and well adjusted. They are assets to society, not liabilities.

One child is a high academic achiever, another was selected as student of the month twice, and another’s teacher said she had never seen a more talented student. I have never had a teacher complain about any behavior problems (knock wood).

Much of their good behavior is due to their own good character, but home life plays a role. We spend that most valuable and important asset together: time. A government report recently warned that prime time juvenile crime peaked after school and before parents got home. The report called for creating more after-school programs. It seems a little backwards, though, that our society continues to reward bad behavior and punish good by throwing money at failures, problems and damage control while failing to offer incentives for desirable behavior.

If a child of mine became a thief or assaulted someone, he might land in prison where he would be granted free room and board as well as legal access, health care, dental care and education. But I have never been offered similar benefits for my child’s exceptional achievement.

Taxpayers pay large, large sums to the “bad behavior industry” and its many institutions and programs, but we treat many fine mothers and fathers as persona non grata in our tax and public policies. Only recently could I, as full-time mother, put the same amount in an individual retirement account as I did when I worked. My personal social security accrues nothing for my efforts at home. My school volunteering and involvement, my home tutoring, my keeping my kids out of mischief in the community, my teaching them personal responsibility - in short my “job” - offers no benefits package. I am allowed no special deductions for child-care expenses. No tax benefits associated with employment.

I don’t ask or expect handouts for moms. I do, however, ask a question: If we propose no bonuses, benefits, or expenditures for parents who raise exceptionally fine children, why do we propose and provide so many for those who don’t?

MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.

Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.


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