Three strikes? Who’s out?

Recently, on the BehaviorBandAid facebook page, I posted an article by renowned parenting expert, John Rosemond.  In this article, a mother asked a question about loud, screaming kids.  Apparently, when the kids play together, they are super loud, banging stuff…well, Im sure you get it. Kids being kids, but a little much for inside the house.

He proposed the “Three strike rule,” which is fairly simple: if the kids get too loud, they get 1 strike.  Loud again, two strikes, and after the third strike the two are separated from each other for an hour (“each in their respective rooms”).  After the hour, they can begin play again.  Three strikes two times in a day?  He says they spend the rest of the day in their rooms and go to bed early.

Here is why I am writing about this article:

  1. I don’t always agree with Rosemond, but there are some things in here I like
  2. If misused, you can be in some trouble
  3. Explain why this works and how this works so you are less likely to make those mistakes.

The way it can work

This procedure, technically speaking, is a punishment procedure because you are responding to a behavior in a way that to make it (hopefully) less likely to occur again.  It is not that different, really, than a time out in that you are taking away something positive and fun as a response to an undesired behavior.  You can use this for a variety of behaviors, and it can be very effective.  But, much like time outs, as with any punishment procedure, you have to be careful.

What I like

  • The “strikes” are a great way to respond to behavior in a very calm and brief way without getting into the whole “why do I have to tell you guys EVERY day to BE QUIET!?!” routine.  It allows you to take the emotion out a bit.
  • When they hit the third strike, you are removing the most reinforcing thing at the time – playing together – from them.  This is nice…you are not reaching for weird punishers that don’t connect or that don’t compete with the power of play (i.e., loss of Nintendo, loss of TV, addition of chores, spankings, etc.).
  • You can, and should, present this visually (actually make “strikes” somewhere).  There are several reasons why, but one of the most important is that it keeps you honest.  You give them a strike, you write it down.  Three strikes?  Enforce the consequence.  Don’t waiver on the program.  It is also helpful to write them down so you will know how much you are delivering strikes over the course of a week or two.
Potential trouble spots (and recommendations)
  • Be a good umpire: Just call the strikes.  Don’t argue with the players.  Let the strikes be strikes.  You can, and should, remind them of the consequences and what they need to do to keep playing together.
  • Let the consequences be the consequences: The consequence of the strikes is the loss of play time.  That is enough.  Don’t yell and don’t add any other consequences.  Just say, “sorry, guys, that is your last strike…I need you to go to your rooms.  You can play again in an hour.”
  • This is not torture: Just because the kids lost access to playing with each other does not mean they lost access to all things.  They can do what they like when in their rooms.  That is fine.  The consequence is not playing together.  Its that simple.
  • Control the consequence:  Mr. Rosemond suggests an hour of the kids being in their respective rooms.  Can you make sure this happens?  If you can’t, or think it might be difficult to maintain it, you might find some other way for the kids to be separated.  If they are younger kids, a much more brief period of time can be as effective (and maybe more effective).  Ten minutes might be enough for some.  If one comes out of the room, quietly and calmly send them back.  Walk with them.
  • Beware of strike-outs:  If you are frequently delivering strikes and the kids are having to go to bed early more than not, you have problems.  This is not working.  You need to reassess what you are doing correctly, what you might be doing incorrectly and if you have done your due diligence…

Due diligence – prepare

If you know this has been a problem in the past and there is going to be a time when being loud is going to be a problem, please prepare for this. Suggest games for them to play for that period of time, give the rules about volume, set parameters for play (the rooms where they can go and the ones they can’t, things they can use for play and those things they can’t), etc. If they make a bunch of noise with certain objects, don’t allow those things to be options.  Don’t wait for them to make a bunch of noise with the Pirates of the Caribbean swords or bang on the walls with the newest and coolest Jedi light sabers.  Restrict access to them or, at least, tell them those things are off limits until…

Oh, and praise them for keeping the volume down every chance you get.

(By the way the picture above was taken in our home…we have the strike system)

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