Hi friends. In the silent months since I last really told you about what we have been up to we have just been muddling through. The lethargy of growing another person has probably made for a rather dull time for the wee guy as I have not been up to much on the weekends since January really. But then, the weather has kept us indoors longer than usual this winter too – perhaps not a winter of discontent exactly, but definitely of harsh conditions. But while the tiny pre-person has been growing, so has our other little one. Thankfully, his obsession with Lego and creating new things – and his growing skill in doing so – has meant that those quiet weekend mornings have flown by in a flurry of creative construction.
We have ventured out at least once a week (if not more) – though not always in the most clement of conditions. We picked the coldest day for a long time to take a stroll around Cambo gardens recently – at least with full body covering the wee one was happy to go adventuring, and find hidey spots wherever he could, the bamboo was an ideal little cave.
Just as the weather started to warm up, a lovely treasure trove arrived from Nana, including a very handsome cardy that will probably do a couple of winters – it is always such a treat to receive a present from Nana – though I suspect that the dinosaur sticker book was the real attraction in the parcel!
We have been using sticker charts with small rewards for Kaz for over a year now, and for the most part, they result in vastly improved behaviour. The only time it didn’t work was in an attempt to encourage more milk drinking. After two days, he announced that ‘I will drink milk when I am five Mama’ and abandoned the sticker chart altogether. No carrot dangling of reward was going to do the trick! Latterly, the rewards have become Lego of the very low-price variety. Which has been a powerful incentive. (Apart from in the milk department). Some time back Kaz announced that he would like an X-Wing Starfighter as his next sticker chart reward. This seemed a bit grand, usually the rewards are almost tokens… So we discussed the behaviours we would be looking for (spontaneous use of ‘Please’ and ‘Thankyou’ and staying in his own bed ALL NIGHT – something that is still a bit hit and miss really) and that it would take a LONG time to achieve the reward he was after. However, after nearly two months of stickering, and MUCH improved behaviours, the day of the X-Wing finally arrived. He was so excited…after it was earned and ordered, he asked about it every morning, the buildup was just like Christmas. It took us all about an hour and a half to construct it (largely because we were just guiding him through the process) and for once, it may stay fully assembled – most of the other Lego articles are deconstructed and pooled for extra creative play not long after being introduced.
As an educator, I tried a range of differing discipline styles in my classroom and boarding house. Mostly I veered towards positive strategies centering on catching and rewarding good behaviour. Occasionally, due to the culture of the institution I worked in, or the nature of the infringing behaviour, there was the inevitable need for punishment as well. But I have never been a fan of any kind of punishment that did not fit the crime, did not address the actual perpetrator, and did not help to encourage improved behaviour. There has been a lot of debate in my homeland lately regarding the anti-smacking laws – or the removal of the use of the legal defence of ‘reasonable force’ in parental crimes of assault against children. I am not intending to wade into this debate. From a personal perspective, I don’t intend to ever hit our children, and so I hope to employ other (hopefully more effective) ways of encouraging them to behave in the manner I would prefer. Of course, this is easily said when the behaviours we are seeking to modify are those of a preschooler. Ask me about this again in 10 years time! One thing that worries me about using incentivising tools is that children become – as they get older – rather adept at producing the behaviour for cynical ends. This is already a little evident in Kazuo’s negotiations. But each stage – and each new challenge – requires a little more thought about how to bring out the best in this little social experiment we are producing.
What are your thoughts about how to bring out the best in children?