Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Set Them Up For Success

Every kid is different. If my contributions have a common theme, it would be just that. Every single kid is different and one size does not fit all. It's with that in mind that we had to reevaluate how we were motivating our son in Pre-Kindergarten.

My son's teacher has a system that works really well. Students move up and down a ladder based on their behavior. They start neutral green and can move up with good behavior and down with bad behavior. Students who are green or better receive a stamp at the end of the day to let their parents know. Students who receive a stamp every day that week visit the treasure box on Friday.

The problem for us was that five days in a row was a lot for our son. His teacher and I were both frustrated by his behavior. He wasn't intentionally being bad, he just wanted to play. He would be good on Monday and Tuesday, but if he didn't get a stamp Wednesday, he didn't seem to care about Thursday or Friday.

At our house we devised a color chart that he colored in with his behavior color. Instead of focusing on five consecutive days, we focused on five days, period. If he was good Monday and Tuesday, but then didn't do so hot Wednesday, he still cared about filling in good boxes for Thursday and Friday. He could earn things like a book, an iPad App, a toy from the dollar bin at Target, and so on.

We also had a bad decisions bar that filled up with five no stamp days. After five no stamp days, he lost a privilege that he had to earn back. The bars helped him see his overall behavior and give him a more achievable goal to reach.

There are kids in my son's class who are completely capable of five consecutive good days in a row and maybe next year, my son would be one of those kids. He's just not this year and rather than fret about him being "that" kid in class and wondering why other kids were able to meet the goals set by the teacher, we made our own goals.

If your child is struggling with behavior in the classroom and the teacher's system isn't a good fit for them, making a complementary system to help encourage good behavior and discourage bad decisions is great. What we did might not work for you and it may take some time to get it just right. We'd tried giving and taking away privileges on a day by day basis before trying the chart, but it didn't work for us and we moved on to something that did. Helping your child be successful is about finding ways to facilitate success rather than react to negative behavior. The ultimate goal is to remove these incentives once the behavior becomes habit. It's a lot easier to start with baby steps and work your way up than to expect giant leaps that your child can't or won't take. 

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