Carrot Stick Encouragement

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Some people talk about dangling the carrot before the horse. I don’t have carrots, but I do have Cheetos—at least they’re the same color.

My family and I climbed Copperhead Summit in Black Mountain, NC. It took twice as long as it should have, because we took along my three-year old son, Carrick.

His little legs churned so fast. I’m sure he felt like he ran up the mountain, even with the dozen stops we took to let him rest. Tears flowed down his cheeks like a mountain stream and his frustrated cries kept the bears at bay—but he made it.

He didn’t cry the entire time, thanks to a little ingenuity and a little goal setting.

I don’t have carrots, but I do have Cheetos—at least they’re the same color. #encouragement #parenting Click To Tweet

I brought along a fresh bag of Cheetos—his favorite—to celebrate him climbing his first mountain. The plan was to let him eat them on the summit while he rested. But after struggling to make much progress, I devised a plan.

Goal setting.

You may call this bribery, but I think only bad parents bribe. I engaged in mutually beneficial goal setting with a three-year old. We decided he could have five Cheetos each time he made it up one of the steep inclines. I also agreed to add an additional Cheeto to the tally every time we stopped.

You may call this bribery, but I think only bad parents bribe. #parents #awesome #child Click To Tweet

He found this deal amicable and it helped improve his moral. Who doesn’t love hiking for Cheetos anyway?

I engaged in mutually beneficial goal setting with a three-year old. #dadventure #moldablemoment Click To Tweet

Halfway through the strenuous hike, Carrick doubled-down. He was tired and wanted to renegotiate the terms of our agreement. With an emphatic stomp, my son refused to accept any less or any more than three Cheetos.

I know what you are thinking; he may not have an extensive future in any form of negotiation. Shame on you for thinking that—he’s only three. But seriously, I have some work to do with his understanding of numbers. I tried to explain that he was taking less, but he’d made his mind up. Nonetheless, we finished the hike under the auspices of this new agreement.

On the return hike from the summit, life was happy. Everyone’s legs hurt less going back down. We stopped for a rest, at the beckoning of Carrick, and I took the opportunity to make this a moldable moment.

My children laughed and giggled at my silliness as I explained the saying, “dangling the carrot before the horse.” I related Carrick to the horse and the Cheetos to the carrot. They found the association highly amusing, and thus birthed my version of carrot stick encouragement.

I transitioned the moldable moment into a teaching about heaven. I shared with them about how heaven is before us. As Christians, it is our goal to move in a way that our lifestyle carries us to a final destination with Jesus in heaven.

My older children easily made the connection. When I asked my seven-year old daughter about how we get closer to our carrot/Cheetos (heaven), she responded that we get there through a relationship with Jesus. My son said we must die or have Jesus come back to finally get to our ultimate destination.

It was a powerful few minutes that connected us as a family and allowed us to center a moldable moment in our regular rhythm of life for Christ.

How can you find time in your daily family events and activities to pause for a few minutes and create your own unique moldable moment?

Pray for God to impress thee times on your heart and mind.

Also, my three-year-olds responded to the moldable moment by revealing, that after Jesus climbed up the mountain he wanted to walk back down to the bottom, because he was tired and wanted to go home. I’m sure there’s a nugget of wisdom there—at least for him.

Cyle Young
Cyle Young
Cyle a binge writer, pastor, and cinnamon roll savant. He spends his day devising how to make the world a better place through the Gospel of Jesus and creating fantastic adventure for his fantasy characters in The Last Waveson novels. He is co-creator of All Out Sports and an avid indoorsman. :) He likes air conditioning more than fleas, ticks, or wasps.

1 Comment

  1. This is so ingenious, Cyle! It would work with me if the incentive were peanut M&Ms. I love the way you used this as a teachable moment. I needed this post when my kids were little. I have to be much more sophisticated now that they’re in their 30s!

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