Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mommy, I Earned Playtime!!!

Parents are beginning to look for ways to keep children’s behavior under reasonable control over the summer months.  One Mom, who hates coming home to a messy house, came up with a rather clever approach.  She will put up a chart on the wall that lists the basic chores and behaviors she wants.  When the kids comply they will earn stars which can be turned in for favorite outdoor activities.  If there aren't enough stars, they can’t have that activity.

This Mom’s plan has a few things going for it.  She is acting like a leader, telling the kids clearly what she expects and assuming her legitimate authority as the head of the household.  She is not explaining away their misbehavior (because they are tired, because they are bored, because, because, because….).

But I do find a few problems that we should explore. 

Basically, rewards do not work over the long haul (and summer vacation is most definitely the long haul!!!).  What happens on rainy days when they can’t play outside anyway?  Or when they aren't going to be home to play outside (family plans, ball games etc.)?  Or when the named activities are no longer the favorites?  Or when they just plain don’t care about outside play? 

Rewards also imply that there must be something in it for me before a child is required to comply with good behavior.  And surely THAT is not what parents mean!!!!

Also, rewards suggest the parent is willing to negotiate good behavior.  “Well, Jonathan, if that reward isn't what you want, what would make you follow the directions?”  Pretty soon you will be up to ice cream trips, then an amusement park trip, a new bike, an IPod and……. Well you get the picture!!!!

So here is my thought.  I love the list on the wall.  Keep it short and simple!!!  It might include:
·         Make your bed in the morning
·         Pick up toys by 4PM
·         Kitchen clean and neat by 4PM
·         Your babysitter or caregiver reports you have been respectful

But that’s it.  No rewards for good behavior.  Just clear, concise expectations.  You tell them about the chart the night before it goes up by saying: “I am putting up your summer behavior chart tonight and I expect you to succeed every day.  No one is going to nag you or remind you to do these things.  We just expect it.”

The next day the chart goes up. Mom kisses her kids good bye with a cheerful “Have a great day” and no more discussion of expected behavior.

Likely outcomes to this approach include:
·         Improved behavior for a few days and then gradual deterioration
·         No improvement at all
·         Worsening behavior!!

In all instances, when Mom gets home if the expectation hasn't been met, she calmly (totally in charge) announces a significant consequence. “Because you didn't succeed with your chart today, you are losing your scooter and pool time for tomorrow”.  (If it is going to be a rainy day, pick something else!!!) 

That’s it – when your kids have earned the negative consequences a few times, they will begin to realize that their freedom and privileges are all based on the choices THEY make.  While they are learning this you must be calm – no threats, no second chances, no yelling, no “When are you going to start listening to me”, no “I am so angry – I can’t believe you would treat me like this”, etc.

Give them the time they need to learn the new approach.  It really should not take too long.  Expect a little backsliding – because learning takes time and because they will need to test you to see if you still mean it!

And on a good day, there is nothing wrong with taking everyone out for ice cream.  Not as a reward for the good behavior, but just because it is a beautiful summer evening and all is well with the world!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment