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Monday, December 27, 2010

Don’t Try THIS at Home…

…or How Not to Train-up Virtuous Kids in Your Homeschool.

A little while back…ok, a good while back (insert sheepish grin here), I mentioned we were going to try a point-system. It took me a little while to come up with the system. Ok, it took me a 5-minute brainstorm after a week or so of procrastinating to come up with the system. And here’s how it worked:

We prayed and hashed out a rule list as a fam.

  • No yelling, shouting, screaming, etc.
  • No hitting, kicking, pinching, clobbering, slapping, smacking, etc.
  • No tripping. No tripping Emma. (I know Emma was thankful for this one).
  • No grabbing.
  • No door slamming.
  • No running in the house.
  • No nasty words.
  • No eye-rolling. (That was mine, though I had a hard time living up to it myself).
  • No throwing (or tossing) inside the house. (Note, this includes both inanimate and animate objects, people, animals, whatever).

And attempted to offer some healthier suggestions for expressing frustration.

  • Stop. Take a deep breath.
  • Count to 10.
  • Pray.
  • Leave the room for a few minutes.
  • Talk about it.
  • It is OK to get mad.
  • It is not OK to lash out.

These two lists were written out and posted on the fridge.

You’ve probably already spotted the problem here, but bear with me, I’m a little denser than most. And in my defense, I didn’t create the lists, I just wrote down what everyone agreed on.

Next to them was posted a piece of lined paper in a sheet protector with the kiddos names (and Mom’s) on it and a dry erase marker clipped to it.

Here’s how the points worked:

Each day everyone would start with zero points for the day. For every rule broken, that person would lose a point. For every kind act, that person would receive a point. There were no points given for following the rules…after all, following the rules is expected, right? We would keep track of the daily points and add them up over time and decide on a goal they were working towards.

I know you see the problem now, don’t you?

The first day, everyone (except Mom) finished with…ready for it? Negative points. Many, many negative points. We decided to forget about the first bad day and start over the next day.

The next day…more negativity…what is up with these kids?

And then the unthinkable happened…even Mom had negative points.

Now, you’re probably thinking…get a clue, Susan! But, I have a hard time sticking to projects and actually finishing them. If something’s not going well, I switch tactics. This can be a good thing. I will never stick with a homeschool curriculum for an entire year just because I spent big bucks on it if it’s not working for my fam. But, with anything new, there is going to be a period of getting into a new groove, and I tend to not give it long enough. I’m a waffler. And the kiddos know it…I had to take a stand, even if it was wrong this time. At least for a week.

So we did it for a week. And we survived. But, outside of the one day when Mary went on a kindness spree…she was unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry and picking up other kids’ messes…and David pathetically trying to imitate her to get points (“If I put this toy away, will I get a point?”), it was a bust. And here’s why:

To train your kiddos to be paragons of virtue, you have to actually instruct them. They don’t have an inherent virtue detector. Unfairness, oh yeah, they get that, especially when it involves another sibling getting an extra bite of cookie or minute of Wii time, but virtue, nope, they don’t get it. They get that it’s wrong to hit somebody, especially if they are the ones being hit, but they don’t get what the right thing is. And we really didn’t talk about the right thing, did we? Duh!

Rules need to make it clear what behavior we are aiming for…not just what we are trying to avoid. We spent so much time dwelling on the negative aspects of their behavior, is it any wonder that they had negative points? A system that only penalizes your kiddos for messing up, without showing them how to do better, teaches them that they are bad (not true). It doesn’t teach them how to be good. Any disciplinary program needs to correct bad behavior, but also to model good behavior, and offer instruction. Reasonable expectations wouldn’t hurt, too.

You see, I did learn something. I’m not a lost cause. And a couple of months later, I’m still working on things in this department. I might even come up with a new point system (it’s not the points that were the problem, after all). But more on this in a bit.

Have you ever tried a point/star system for your kiddos? How did it work out for you?

1 comment:

  1. We did something similar that seemed to work ok for us - but it took advantage of having 2 cats and a dog. We called it "Poop Points". For every negative point from the list of no-no's, the kids had to scoop a piece of poo from the litter box or the backyard. We ran out of poo in a couple days, but the nice thing was that behavior improved in that time frame as well. Unfortunately, by the time there was more poo to deal with, they didn't have any points, and I had to clean the litter box!

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