If you are a parent or a teacher, you know that the real name of the game is figuring out how to get the littluns to do what you want. I mean, there’s all that business about enjoying them and mutual respect and productive member of society and honoring to parents, bla dee bla, but what you really want is for them to do what you say, like IMMEDIATELY.
Well, The ProvidinaTOR and I recently launched a new incentive program in The Low Ryder house, and it is (whisper for fear of jinx) going great.
Just by way of a little background, my eldest daughter is an absolute clone of her mother in that she is crippled by fears of not pleasing and adores being cleanly; therefore, she is the perfect child. Well, at least insofar as obeying under threat of punishment or displeasure goes . . . . Do I exploit this? Well, um . . . .(awkward!). . . um . . .
My son, bless him, is a clone of his father and wants nothing more than to watch TV and build Trios ninety hours a day. We have been hard pressed to convince him that there was any link whatsoever between behavior and privilege. He just didn’t get it. Lately, he has even begun negotiating.
My baby daughter, who recently secretly became big against my expressed wishes, is of the tenuous age and disposition to begin emulating one of them. She recently adopted an expression both cuter and worse than the classic two-year old, “NO!”. It is “I’m NOT!”
Here’s a sample.
The ProvidinaTOR: Dylan, Anika, it’s time to put away your Trios and get ready for bed.
Dylan: Just one more minute. (This is code for “No way”)
Anika, impishly: I’m not.
The ProvidinaTOR: Dylan you’ve played a long time. You need to clean up. How about you put away the big pieces and I’ll do the little ones?
Dylan: I CAN’T DO IT!!!
Anika, more confidently: I’m not!
The ProvidinaTOR, firmly: Dylan, stop playing. It is time to clean up NOW.
Dylan: Okay, you clean up and I’ll finish building dis towah.
Anika, delighted with self: I’M NOT!
I could include the rest of the dialogue, but basically, it is punctuated by “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” and “NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO.” We’ve tried a lot of variation, but with poor results.
Thus it is with great delight that I announce that our current program is working!! Maybe it is just that they are at the right age. Whatever it is, when nothing else worked, this Incentive-Eyes program is. We had a magnetic Melissa and Doug Responsibility chart that we largely ignored because only Addie would do anything on it.
I revised the way we used the chart (ignoring the day designations and using the bottom portion). I lined up all the responsibilities we expect of them on the bottom and told them they would get a “smile” in their chosen color when they accomplished it. Smiles can be redeemed for 15-20 minutes (or whatever we determine since they cannot, mercifully, tell time yet.) of TV, leapster, or computer time. Bascially smiles equal screen time. Perhaps because the reward occurs the same day or the following morning, there is a direct connection between obedience and privilege.
PRAISE BE TO JESUS! It is working. Last night after they brushed their teeth, and were awarded a smile, J said that they would get another smile if they could get right in bed and pick out books. Normally this process is both everlasting and annoying. Five minutes later when I went in their room, expecting to see two children fruiting around on the floor, here’s what I saw.
Now perhaps you will criticize me for not developing a system that rewards them without TV. Or perhaps you will say that they should intrinsically love obedience. Or perhaps you have read a boring non-fiction parenting book that details an elaborate system or discipline vs. punishment vs. reward. But I say, “MY SON CAME OUT OF HIS ROOM THIS MORNING AND ASKED IF HE COULD MAKE HIS BED FOR A SMILE!!” I said yes. Then I gave him two. One green and magnetic. One glorious and motherly.