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The Carrot Is Already On His Plate

Question: Kelly in Birmingham won a truck several years ago. He plans to give it to his son when he starts driving in another year and a half. How can Kelly teach his son responsibility for the vehicle even though he plans to give it to him? Dave thinks the problem is his son doesn’t have an incentive to care for it since the carrot is already on his plate.

Answer: Obviously, if he were to save up and pay something toward it, that would be good, but I’m guessing that the truck has more value than he’s going to have saved even half of.

The problem is it’s a little hard to dangle the carrot when it’s already on his plate. You point at the truck and say, “That’s yours. It’s sitting here waiting on you…” I don’t know what his incentive is. There’s no sense of desperation like, “I’m not going to have something if I don’t work.” I guess you begin to talk to him and just enforce that he’s going to work and save up to pay for half the truck in order to get the truck. That’s the same thing as you matching him. “In order for you to get this truck, you need to have saved $4,000. If you can’t work enough to save $4,000 by the time you’re 16, we’re going to sell the truck and get something with the money that you have saved. You need to get in business. I need to sit down and show you. That means you’ve got two years of $2,000 a year you’ve got to come up with. How are you going to do that? What are you going to work? You’re going to cut grass. We’ve got this much savings already.” Help him do some goal setting or whatever. Even if you come up with a different number and say, “We’re going to value the truck at $6,000, so you need to save up $3,000.” You just come up with something to where he engages some goal setting and hitting the goals with work–some savings goals–to be able to have that sense of pride of making the purchase or a portion of the purchase.

If he thinks he’s getting the truck no matter what he does, then there’s really no reason for him to do anything. He’s not going to be very motivated. I wouldn’t be. You’ve got to be willing to not give it to him in order to change his attitude. If he does nothing for the next two years and saves up $2, you’ve got to be willing to sell the truck and him not get it, which kind of breaks up your dream of what you were going to do with it. You’ve left it sitting in the garage for five years. You’ve got to search your soul and your emotions and make sure you’re ready to do that because the worst thing you can do is promise him that and then give it to him anyway. He doesn’t save $2 and you hand it to him anyway after you told him he had to work for it. You’re the boy who cried wolf then. You don’t want to get there.

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