Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Child Discipline

My daughter Kristen has three active boys. Which means she has had to struggle with keeping peace in the house on a daily basis. I noticed when we were visiting at her house that she had a piece of paper hanging in her kitchen with stars on it, and she told me it had changed her life. I could see a real difference in the behavior of the children, so I thought I would share this discussion with you, dear blog reader, in case it might be of some help to you or someone you love.

If you have no children, or know no one who is a parent, you need read no further today.

Me: Kristen, can you tell me details of your star reinforcement system, The Think Before You Speak Program?

Kristen:  You mean my wildly successful program? The one that has cut down bickering and complaining in my house by like 75%?  Because the number one thing that the kids do that drives me crazy is unnecessary bickering, complaining, whining, name calling, and even those huffing noises they make when they’re told to do something.  I hate that noise.

The children are given 6 stars every morning.  1 star = 10 minutes of device time, with the Xbox or iPhone. Anytime they do one of those things listed above, they lose a star. Complaining about the loss of a star will lose them a star and they will be corrected.  Instead of saying “Adaaaaam!!!  Stoooooopppppppppp," they will lose a star and I will tell them what they should have said. They are slowly starting to say the right thing in those situations where they normally would have just started to yell or get upset. 

After dinner, they can cash in their stars.  I set timers, so it’s completely fair.  I have an app on my phone that will run 3 timers at the same time, so I can keep track of everyone’s time at once.  Also, they may cash in 1 star after dinner for dessert if they like.  If they’d rather have the device time, they take that. I find sometimes the kids skip dessert, when normally they would have eaten it just because it was there.  They are only allowed to buy 1 dessert per day, and are not allowed to bargain for anyone else’s dessert.

Me:  What happens to the rest of the day when they lose 6 stars by noon?

Kristen:  That has not happened yet. They always try to save 1 star for dessert, so they’re super careful. I make good desserts. Honestly, if it happened here, they just wouldn’t get dessert and wouldn’t get devices.  That's a huge punishment for them. I have told them that when they’re out of stars, they are in bed for the night, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Me: How about if they act up after device time is done?

Kristen:  If they misbehave after stars are cashed in, they go to bed.

Me: OK, what if they are really bad today? Can you start knocking off tomorrow's stars? Can you save stars for tomorrow?

Kristen:  I don’t dock stars in advance.  I wanted to make a point out of telling them that no matter how awfully they behave today, tomorrow is a new day and they start fresh. Also, stars expire at bedtime. No saving them.

Me: That seems like a good lesson in Mom-love! What was your first week like?

Kristen:  It was a rough first week. A lot of stars were lost.

Me: What if the child does something super-nice? Can they earn stars back?

Kristen: No they can't. I thought about it a lot, but when you behave terribly, like calling someone a name and hurting their feelings, that loss of a star is a record of it.  No matter how good they are later, they hurt someone’s feelings and that can’t be erased. It's kind of like when a kid does something wrong and just says Sorry! and it’s forgiven.  I don’t like that at all.  Sometimes hurt feelings linger and no matter how good they act, they can’t erase what they did. Now, the kids think that rule is really unfair, and they bring it up a lot. I see their point, but I think it helps them to own up to their own behavior.  It's also why loss of stars don’t carry over to the next day.  Yesterday was yesterday, and it was acknowledged. We'll try harder today.

Me:  They still have to apologize?

Kristen:  Oh yes. I mean, i’ve seen kids who think they can do whatever they want because they can throw out a Sorry! afterwards.  It's insincere. 

Me: What's your favorite part of your Think Before You Speak Program?

Kristen:  I get a kick out of when the kids are fighting and I call out “Rob and Ben just lose a star” and it’s dead silence.  You hear nothing but crickets.  I love that they want to argue but don’t.  That's the whole point of the program.

Me: What happens if one child is making an irritating sound and the other one asks politely for quiet, but the sound continues? So the second child yells, notifying Mom in the next room that someone is breaking the rules? Who loses a star?

Kristen:  I prefer no tattling. In this house they'd each lose a star. For not stopping the annoying noise and for yelling. And then I'd just remind them no tattling.  Also, when a star is lost, we talk about how it should have been handled.  "When someone tells you to stop, you stop” is a big rule in this house, because Ben will harass his brothers until they snap and punch him.  So we make a big deal out of saying “Ben would you please stop that” and him stopping right away.  Or else they both lose a star because they both handled the situation the wrong way.

Me:  Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Kristen: Yes, it is important to set the rules and not get into a discussion of how they should be changed. You are teaching your children life skills on how to handle a problem.  Give it a month doing it this way and see how it works. It's made a huge difference in my family. 

No comments:

Post a Comment