Buy Me a Boat

So, last week, we bought a boat. Yep, you heard me right. A boat. The week leading up to said boat purchase there were heavy discussions on the merits of buying a small RV to house two parents with a habit of traveling to watch college baseball. This mama wasn’t budging on that expense and definitely not in sync with Mr. Bigstuff’s painted experience of RV ownership. (You can read more about that in my last blog post here: Roads Less Traveled). The whole experience pulled me back to middle school days, including the use of my beloved reverse contract strategy* for someone who struggles with the now vs not now universe of time blindness.

When Bling started with his quest to secure a John Boat for fishing, he knew exactly who to ensnare in his grandiose plan, and I’ll give you one hint…it wasn’t me. Well, at least not initially - he knew he would need to reserve his best offensive moves to seal the deal with his mama. I know his game. Now that we are the proud owners of said boat, I can’t get Chris Janson’s song “Buy Me a Boat” out of my head, and that is the tune that Bling has been singing as he has nudged the boat conversation along these last two weeks.

When Bling or his father get something in their head, the hyper-focus often goes into hyper-drive. Enter dogged research efforts and pro/con lists for both of them. I didn’t think it would happen, but Bling managed to sway Mr. Bigstuff into his corner. I knew they weren’t budging once they both were on the bandwagon. Bling was so excited that he recognized a similarity between them in both their persistence and hyper-focus. Being on “Team Bling” is a pure rush of the #goodstuff for that child. When his father joins the team, I sometimes think is jumps to #greatstuff. You just can’t underestimate the value of paternal connection.

All that #greatstuff aside, we decided to craft a few contingencies into this acquisition and wrapped them into our tried and true reverse contract for Bling. Now vs Now Now. How do you create incentives for someone who struggles with longer-term or delayed satisfaction? Sometimes, you give them the reward upfront. In this case, it was a higher ticket item, and the higher ticker came with much higher stakes as well. What I particularly loved about the planning and negotiation process of this most recent endeavor was the ease with which all parties crafted the terms as a team. We’ve gotten much better at this over the years, and it was much easier than the first attempt 8 years ago. Mr. Bigstuff was not a true believer then, but he has since come into the light. At first, I felt like he was drinking too much of the punch - this was a much bigger investment than a new baseball glove.

Said boat is tethered to grades and personal care goals for the remainder of the summer and the coming semester. We went 50-50 on the cost of the boat, so that Bling had some major skin in the game. We raised the GPA stakes for his 3rd semester in college, and all of us are confident that the threat of losing the shiny object that currently fills his summer days will be a fabulous motivator for his brain.

I plan on sending him pictures of his prize while he’s away at school, to keep it fresh in his mind - we gotta keep it shiny, people. That’s the key to a reverse contract - keeping that prize in the present, so that it acts as a motivator to get things done or risk losing the bling.

It was kinda fun to step back in that moment and appreciate how far we have all come in understanding one another. Despite my reluctance to acquiesce on Operation Boatload, I’ve already seen the fruits of the labor it took to park that puppy in our yard. The 1:1 time on the water is probably the best perk of all, and that is a reward that needs no contract.

*Curious about this whole reverse contract thing? You can read more about that and other strategies we have used for strategies for partnering here:  Reluctant Partner . I teach parents about this concept in my CHADD Parent to Parent and Coaching Cville’s Parenting ADHD courses.

*Curious about this whole reverse contract thing? You can read more about that and other strategies we have used for strategies for partnering here: Reluctant Partner. I teach parents about this concept in my CHADD Parent to Parent and Coaching Cville’s Parenting ADHD courses.

Kate Barrett