We were in a hurry… OK, I was in a hurry because I slept late and was not feeling it this morning. I dragged out of bed and didn’t feel like dealing with the kids yet, so I took a shower – a long one. When I peeked at the clock from underneath my towel as I dried my hair, I noticed I had fallen even further behind. Half-dressed, I stormed into to kid #1’s room, flipped on the light and said, “get up, get up–WE are late and you need to hurry!” As she rubbed her eyes not knowing what happened, I threw open the door to kid #2’s room, turned on the light and shouted orders like a scene from some Navy Seals training documentary. Fifteen minutes later of getting my stuff together and 45 seconds of microwaving something that even Aunt Jemima would not recognize as a waffle, I checked on the kids again. Continue reading
I recently responded to a friend’s request about a struggle she is having with her daughter. I think she was brave to say what others have not, so here is her email to me and my response to her within her email. It is long, but so are nights struggling with your child because he or she will not do homework! Please comment with your thoughts…
So, here I am… A desperate (embarrassed, possibly mortified) single mom begging for help…
My daughter has decided she won’t do class work in class. (she is in the second grade). The teacher puts them in groups to do the classwork, but she refuses to do it, or chats up the others, or coaxes them into not doing the work. So, the teacher has had to put her at her own desk– I guess shaming her into compliance?– but my daughter acts like this is a reward. And, still doesn’t do the work. When asked why she isn’t doing the work, she told the teacher “it is pointless”. She now has a folder filled with “unfinished work” and the teacher is going to start giving her zeros… If she does the work, it is rushed and done just to get to do something else– so she gets Cs on work for which she is capable of getting As.
My response: Does she appear to be motivated to avoid the zero? It seems she is not that motivated by the achievement of the A. Sometimes this can backfire if the zero is not aversive. Continue reading
As we all settled into our seats at the dining room table, we looked out the windows to see the nasty and dark Florida evening storm clouds that had popped up from nowhere. When we were all looking outside, we noticed a car driving by and then a dog leaping out the window.
Did you see that? Did they just throw that dog out?
A comment I frequently get when talking about rewarding behavior is, “won’t he just learn to expect some kind of reward for everything?” Another version of this is, “well, if I do that, then she won’t she always ask for something in return?”
My answer? NO, and it does not really matter at this point anyway. This is especially true if you are working on changing a problem behavior.
A personal story
One of the things we have worked on in our house is “accepting it,” which basically means, “don’t freak out if something does not go your way.”
So, to do that, we started praising and specifically rewarding when our kids “accept it.” Also, occasionally, we reward calm “acceptance” with what they wanted in the first place. For example, if we told our son to turn the computer off and he did so without doing the bouncy, whiny thing (or some version of protest), we would say, “dude…thank you for accepting it and closing the computer. You can have more time on the computer now that you accepted that.”
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when he accepted something that was a pretty big deal. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but I was happy how he accepted it. He turned to me and said,
“so, since I accepted it, can I keep playing it?”
There was also another time soon after that when he said,
“since I did good, can I have a treat?”
Am I worried about that becoming a pattern? Good gracious, no.
Do I think he will start manipulating the situation so he only does something if there is something “in it for him?” Nope. Does not cross my mind.
Do I sometimes give him the treat or let him keep playing? Sometimes. (We actually have a rule that you don’t get a reward if you ask for it…but that’s another story).
First things first…I am pretty happy when I have focused on teaching a certain behavior and it begins to occur more and more, even if I have to heap praise, high fives and some extra time with the computer on top of it. The more the behavior occurs, the less I will have to reward it. The behavior is occurring, at least, and I can fade out the rewards as time goes on.
Second, if your child says he will only do it if he gets a treat, that’s ok. Do not get into a back and forth with him about it. I would suggest waiting until he wants to do something or asks for something and then you say, “well, you need to ______, then you can have/do that.” Do not get cranked up about it…it really does not mean a whole lot at this point other than the fact he has caught on to the fact that he does something for you and it can benefit him in some way (not a bad lesson to learn anyway).
So, if you are somehow worried that your child will only behave because there is a piece of candy or extra time playing games at the end of the good behavior, worry not! They are kids. You can worry about “intrinsic motivation” or “doing it because they should” later.