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. Continue reading

Should do??? Won’t do!! – How to get your kid to do what they should


Just because you think your kid should be doing something does not mean that he will just up and do it one day…”just because he should.”

Look, there are a lot of things parents think their kids should do, but ultimately the question remains: IS he doing it?  If the answer to that question is ever “NO,” lets talk about it a bit more.

The source of this comment is usually about getting up in the morning, going to bed at night, completing chores, taking a bath, following general directions and simply being “respectful” to parents and other adults.  Here is the thing though…it has to have some benefit to the kid for him to do those things without throwing a fit, complaining, or pouting as he takes out the trash.  

Why most kids do what they should

Yes, some kids do such things so they can avoid making you mad, keep access to the game system, or simply preserve the ability to sit down without wincing (have a sense of humor…I am not saying spanking is a good idea).  There are also kids who do these things because they have sufficient experience with these things resulting in positive things such as praise, high fives, parental acceptance or even access to a little extra time in front of the TV or computer that night.  For a lot of kids, these two things are enough.

For some, it isn’t.  Here is the help:

To turn the should do into did do you need to begin with a three step shaping process:

1.  Arrange certain things to make the behavior more likely to occur.  This might mean shortening the task, making it less effortful, less time consuming or more interactive with someone fun (like YOU, for example). 

“Clean your room” becomes “pick up those socks, put those shoes under your bed and throw me that towel and we will get out of here!”  “Clean the bathroom” turns into “squirt some of this weird blue stuff around the inside of the toilet, flush it and lets go…”  “Get dressed” gets done by you going in, putting everything on but the socks and then saying “put your socks on and meet me in the kitchen for those awesome PopTarts.”

2.  Reinforce the completion of the task since you just made it much more likely to happen.  Be nice.  High five. A pleasant, “I appreciate you getting that done this morning.” 

Rewards have not been successful up to this point because the task was too aversive or too difficult.  The reward did not work because they never got access to it.  Now they have…now the reinforcer can begin to work.

3.  Slowly fade into higher levels of demand: “Here is your shirt, now all you need is your pants and socks…see you in a second,” “Make sure you get that towel off the floor too, please” or “rub that brush around in that blue toilet stuff before you flush then spray the shower while I get the movie going.”  

You see…to make sure something happens, whether or not YOU think it should, it sometimes means taking a few steps back to make it more likely to happen so you can reinforce it.  

You should do this…

Teaching your kid to be a “people person”


“Your kids are so polite.” 

“What a little gentleman.  What is your name, little boy?”

Oh, the smiles of proud parents when this happens.  Your child being publicly recognized for good behavior is about as good as it gets for parents.  Bigger deal for kids?  ABSOLUTELY, here is why:

So much of how we behave is maintained by social consequences. 

Making people smile, doing things not to embarrass yourself in front of your spouse’s boss, receiving compliments, “looking good,” the list goes on.  The power of following social rules and social boundaries is huge.   Receiving social acceptance and avoiding social disgrace is makes us tick.  Here is an example I use in many of my trainings:

Picture yourself at a red-light in a town far away from home.  There are cars on both sides of you.  You get an itch on the inside of your left nostril.  CRAP.

Do you scratch it? 

Most people smile and look around nervously, even as I tell the story.  The truth is, in most cases we will NOT scratch the inside of our nose simply because one of those people (who you will NEVER, EVER see again) might, JUST MAYBE, think you are picking your nose.  How embarrassing.

Need anymore evidence of how much social consequences play a part in our behavior?

Back to your kids. 

As they grow up, many of their behaviors will occur outside of your reach.  These behaviors will be reinforced by those around them: friends, teachers, coaches, even strangers on the street.  It is important for you to begin to teach your kids how to best access the best kinds of social consequences: praise, smiles, compliments, etc.  We talked about this a bit before when talking about the Suzuki method and “teaching the bow.”  If you have not read that, please do so…very cool story.

Politeness.  Manners.  Introducing themselves, shaking hands (even at early ages), saying, “excuse me,” “potty” or “restroom” instead of “I gotta poop.”  Go ahead and teach them to raise their hand.  It is amazing how people respond when young kids do these things.  It is a powerful force. 

It also allows you to follow up the public praise with some of your own: “did you see how amazed that guy was when you said, ‘excuse me, sir.’  That was so awesome.”

Try it.  Do something simple.  Prompt it next time a friend comes over.  Teach your son to shake hands, teach your daughter to say, “would you like something to drink.”  I think they (and you) will be surprised and pleased.

Are you a tease?


Never thought you would get that question from me did you?  I’m not asking the question you think I’m asking. 

What I am asking is…Do you offer incentives, reinforcers, access to fun things as ways to get your child to do something you want them to do, then not follow through.  A lot of parents have this problem.  In the moment, it is so important for the child to do something that we bring out the big guns

“I tell you what, if you can make it through this Sunday school without insulting Sister Marguerite, we can get an ice cream cone on the way home.” 

The kid does it…what a star!  Not a peep during Sunday school and the good Sister actually wondered, “what go into your son today, he was a true gentleman.” 

Now you are rushed to get home to get the yard mowed before it rains and you put all your cash into the offering plate because you were still on a high from your son’s success…money well spent. 

“We’ll get your ice cream later, OK?” or worse yet, “we can get that ice cream later if you can help your mom for a bit with the baby.” 

Did you see what just happened?  Over time and experiences such as the one above those “teases” will stop working because your child will learn not to trust what you say.  YEP.  Why would they?  Remember, every interaction is an opportunity (good and bad) to teach your child something. 

What are you teaching here?   What is the more powerful consequence?  Making his friends laugh and cheer after calling out Sister Marguerite’s obesity problem to the class will surely outweigh the benefits of a “not really” offer for ice cream. 

Follow through, follow through, follow through.  Teach your child that when you say something, you mean it.  Teach them when you say there is ice cream, ice cream there will be (and soon).  

“Don’t point that at me! Do you want to make me take you out of this store?”


I was recently walking down the hall with a group of younger elementary school students and their teachers.  One of the kids (the one I was there for) was a bit “wiggly” in line and was not following the directions to “keep your hands at your side” and a “bubble in your mouth” (funny way to keep the mouth closed, which is to blow up your mouth like a balloon)—see this for why this works.

One of the teachers then went up to him and said, “do you want me to put my hand on your shoulder?” in a tone that made me think she was saying that as a threat of punishment.  Kind of like, “do you want to go to time out?” or “do you want me to call your mother?” 

The kid looked up and said, “yes.”  Whoops.  They walked down the hall together…one happy, one frustrated (I’ll let you decide who was who).

This makes me think of at least 2 things:

  1. We often ask questions that are not really questions, but threats-sometimes baseless or veiled threats.
  2. We often assume some things are punishers or things the kid wants to avoid, but sometimes they are not (it was clear the kid actually did want the teacher to put her hand on his shoulder).

Please be careful and listen out for these questions.  Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want the answer or the answer is already obvious. 

Do you really want to know if your kid wants you to count to 3?  Does it really matter what your kid’s answer is to your question, “do you want a spanking?” 

“Actually, mother, I do believe that my behavior warrants a time out and possibly a spanking…I agree with you…I just wish you would have asked me if I wanted you to count to 3 before”  

CLARIFICATION:  I have heard kids say “YES!” to this question, but in a harsher tone like, “I don’t care…take away my Wii…I don’t care.”  At this point you are in a tug-of-war and you need to drop the rope.  You should not have asked the question in the first place.  Please don’t get into this.  If you want to take away the Wii, take it.  Don’t ask for permission from your child first.  

Be careful to understand what might be punishing (something that actually reduces the occurrence of future behavior, by definition) and what might be reinforcing (increasing future occurrence of the behavior, by definition).  The student in the example above was able to gain access to a personal escort (and the attention associated with that) by jumping around in the line.  Her presence was NOT a punisher.  Sometimes your reactions (although potentially strong and intended to be punishing) can be desired by the kid. 

Ever heard of people “pushing your buttons?”  It happens, and 3 year olds are completely capable of doing it (just in case you haven’t noticed).

Let me know what you think!…”do you want me to have to ask you again?!? Huh?!?”

Horse pills for your parenting health


I hate antibiotics.  I really hate taking medication of any form, which means when I finally give up I have to take the nastiest, biggest pills for the longest time.  THREE A DAY FOR 10 DAYS?  But I feel better after the 3rd day!  I feel better and shake the extra large bottle that still contains 21 more horse pills and weigh out if I want to go through the next 7 days or just hope I have done enough to kill whatever it was that was turning my mucus a deep shade of green.

The doctor would tell you the prescription was written for 10 days for a reason.  A friend physician who doesn’t have to watch his language or bedside manner says, “Take the #$% pills you wuss.  You wanna strengthen your sickness to fight harder the next time?  Oh, AND you’ll be sick again in 2 days.  Let me know when you go to medical school.” 

GULP…20 more pills to go.

Behavior strategies are the same. 

I spoke about this a little when talking about Sticker Charts.  Think of your “medicine” having to work over time to maintain its effectiveness.  It worked immediately…cured?  NO.  It could have worked due to the novelty factor, or simply the fact you are finally paying attention to it.  Even though it worked, if you quit, you might suffer a similar fate as you would if you were to stop taking the antibiotics on the 3rd day: it would strengthen resistance against the “medication” and the “sickness” (your child’s behavior) would also be stronger. 

 A lot of families go through this.  They mention a strategy that used to work, but doesn’t anymore: “she keeps upping the ante…it takes more and more to get her to do what I want her to do.  She is manipulating this whole thing. Nothing works anymore.”  Yep.  Maybe they didn’t stick with it.  Maybe every time your kid sees a new sticker chart, a new behavior strategy, her experience is “oh, they are paying attention…I’m gonna get what I can out of this.” 

The Z-pack isn’t powerful enough…your kid now has the behavioral version of MRSA.

Treat early and maintain the treatment until you can slowly fade the strategies after the natural reinforcers have taken over and are supporting those more appropriate behaviors.  Keep working…your prescription was written for much longer than you might be willing to take it.  Gulp it down and keep it up…if its working, IT IS WORKING.