“So, here I am…A desperate single mom begging for help”

homework.

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

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The expectation of reward for good behavior

Varuca
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.

Is your plan for your child’s behavior working? Are you sure??

The-Simpsons.s22e03-I-must-not-write-all-over-the-walls
When thinking about something you are doing to help stop a certain behavior or encourage another one, ask yourself a very simple question:

“are you doing more of that something, or less?”

The answer will tell you if your “plan” is working.

This might sting a little, so hold on with me…this is important. Continue reading

Are you begging your child to cooperate?

Photo by Tobyotter via Flickr

Photo by Tobyotter via Flickr

We all want our kids to behave well. We want them to do what they should and when they should do it. We want them to earn the spoils of behaving properly. We create some of these “spoils” ourselves in the form of sticker charts, trips to the ice cream shop or dollar bills.

But, are there situations when we try too hard to get our kids to earn what we have arranged? I think so. Continue reading

Your kid’s “RED day” at school and what it means

photo by USAG-Humphreys via Flickr

photo by USAG-Humphreys via Flickr

One of the most common classroom behavior management systems I see in elementary schools is the traffic light level system wherein students “on green” have shown good behavior and those with not-so-good behavior are either “on yellow” or have the dreaded “red day” if the behavior is bad enough. Some teachers might still use the smiley face system (e.g., smiley, straight face, frowny face), might have more than three colors, or might use the school mascot (e.g., “a green fox day”), but they are all based on the same idea. However, they are used incredibly differently across teachers, so:

Here are some things to ask your child’s teacher and why it matters Continue reading

3 Reasons behavior plans fail and what to do about it.

photo by Matt Erasmus via Flickr

photo by Matt Erasmus via Flickr

Sometimes parents tell me their behavior plan or reward system worked for a little while, but then stopped working. “He just didn’t care about it anymore,” they often say.

I always try to figure out why these things “fail” so I can help the next plan be more likely to succeed. Here is my list of the three reasons behavior plans fail: Continue reading

Pull this Bandaid off slowly – How to stop reward systems

photo by ngader via Flickr

photo by ngader via Flickr

Am I always going to have to do this?”

Some parents might worry if you start a certain prevention strategy (e.g., bringing books to a restaurant) or a reward strategy (e.g., “Am I always going to have to give her these stickers for cleaning up her room?”), you will always have to keep doing it.

The concern, I think, is these “BehaviorBandAids” (if you will) take too much effort or attention to maintain over long periods of time. Another concern is, “at some point he needs to be able to do this just because and not because he gets something from me.”

I get it…I really do. Continue reading