Many doctors, dentists, or other healthcare places have treasure chests. The original concept, of which I am extremely opposed, was that a child would receive a treasure from the chest of they behaved. Rewards are just the opposite side of the punishment coin. While we don’t see our doctor any more often than needed, we are occassionally there. His office has the infamous treasure chest, as does our dentist’s office. Luckily, neither has ever said anything about the trinkets inside being for good behavior, so I would just grit my teeth as my children dug through looking for a treasure in order not to bring their attention to the fact that there was an alternative motive for doctors and dentists to provide such a chest.
The trinkets in treasure chests such as these are never very good. They are cheap, in every meaning of the word, and fall apart almost immediately. However, I never wanted to take away my children’s choice in the matter, so I went along, keeping my mouth shut.
One day, I had waited about 30 minutes at the dentist’s office after my children’s appointments while they rummaged around in the treasure chest, looking for the perfect trinkets. It was honestly wearing on my patience, but I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I always like to make informed choices myself. On the way to the van from the dentist’s office, my sons new treasure broke. After spending 30 minutes to decide on which item he should pick, it hadn’t even lasted long enough to be carried out in the parking lot. There were tears.
So, we sat down in the van right there in the parking lot and discussed the situation. We came up with the fact that it was fun to get something new and small just for them but that the trinkets at such places weren’t very fun because they immediately broke. Our solution? An alternative choice. The next time we went to one of these places, they could either choose to pick something out of the treasure chest or they could choose to bypass it and we would purchase some type of small, inexpensive treat. At the time, my children thought it was really cool to buy cars at the grocery store for $1, and that is what they chose the next time. Since then, they have decided on a box of brownie mix to make as a family, to save a dollar toward something they were saving up for, and several other things.
Some would view this as a bribe. The basic concept of the treaure chest bothers me, but I’ve taken a different view on our alternative agreement. Our family had a situation which wasn’t working for us, set up by society, and we came up with a solution that did.