Saturday, May 17, 2008

Of Tokens and Beans

Long time, no blog. I know, I know. Life gets in the way.

We have a behavior/discipline system that we've been using (with some modifications along the way) since early February. Now that we've gotten most of the kinks worked out, it's going pretty smoothly, so I thought I'd share. Nothing works forever for any child, so I'm sure we'll move on/modify it eventually, but I'm happy with it for now.

If you were a fly on the wall in our house, you would often hear "JW, move a bean. You're not working diligently," or "MS, bring me a token. I asked you not to do that," (and I would be checking the windows to see who had left one open and let you in). Not quite as often, you might hear, "Thank you for getting bread for me at the store, here's a token," or "Way to clean that up quickly! Go move a bean back the other direction."

MA and JW each have a little bowl (well, actually a Baskin Robbins baseball cap ice cream sundae cup) with beans in them. JW has 20 total, and they have green Sharpie dots on them. MA has 25 with red dots (well, they used to have red dots on them; many of them are worn off now; if it doesn't have a green dot, it's MA's).

For each infraction throughout the day, such as playing when they have a responsibility to take care of, they must move a bean to another bowl (JW) or bring a bean to me (MA). And for each time, they're "caught" obeying well, working diligently, doing an act of kindness or are asked to do something above and beyond their normal responsibilities, they are given back a bean or told to move one back the other direction.

In the morning, after breakfast, JW and MA "mark their goal charts." These are 100's charts with their names at the bottom. For every bean left in the baseball cap bowl, they get to mark off one number. When they get to 100, they get a new book (yes, those are big treats in our house; thank goodness for English language bookstores that carry children's books!). Since February, JW has earned 4-5 and MA 2-3 (she's a little more obedience-challenged at this point :-/).

So, that's the good part. But what if they're having a bad day? You'd be surprised how a 6.75yo and a 5yo can burn through 25 and 20 beans, respectively. It doesn't happen that often (no more than once every 2 weeks, at the most), but when it does, they're done for the day.* On their beds. With books (I'm a softy). They can join us for dinner, but they return to their beds as soon as they're done until it's time to get ready to go to sleep. No more playing. No videos (even when everyone else is watching one; I'm not that soft). The day is over.

Why that?

Well, it breaks their cycle of disobedience by removing them from any possible way in which they could disobey (okay, yeah, I have relatively compliant kids; they have yet to refuse to go to their beds, but I also only instituted this with kids I knew were at the point where that was not an issue; that type of training came earlier and differently). Also, being sent to their beds "releases" them from a rough day, too. It's actually more peaceful for the child when they're struggling so hard and not finding much success.

And, well, um, it means I'm through with them for the day, too. Oh, that sounds awful. But do you know how much easier it is to get through a difficult day with a child when you know that, at some point, very soon, if it's a really bad day, there will be no more conflict? It's incredibly freeing. It helps your attitude with them immensely. It stretches your patience to make it last longer. It's really the best thing for everyone involved.

When I shared this system with an on-line friend, she said, "We just might have to try that. Although with the way things are going, they'll be on their beds by noon." She was joking, but we had that happen a couple of times when we used this system with MS when he was about 5. And he had 100 coins (they've since phased out the smallest coin here, which is why we used beans this go-round).

So far, all three of our olders have reached a point around this age where they're disobeying constantly. Although we do spank for major offenses, there was just no way it was even physically possible for me to discipline them that many times in a day and get anything done/take care of their siblings. Plus, they really needed a concrete, tangible (which is redundant, I know; I'm trying to make a point) way to see how many, many times a day they were disobeying. They also definitely needed some incentive to obey and some reward when they did.

Something I've seen with MA, specifically, too, is that having to stop her disobedience to bring me a bean.each.and.every.time. helps drive home the message that she's disobeying and that it needs to change.

And, oh, how they beam when they earn a bean/get to move one the other direction. I was not as good at that part at first, but am getting better, and it's really a positive for them.

To give credit where credit is due, this system is a conglomeration of some different ideas I'd read on the Sonlight discussion boards and something Lisa Whelchel talked about in her book Creative Correction, I think. I took concepts from several systems and meshed them into something that would work for our family.

For anyone worried about the choking hazard of dried beans (they're navy beans, in case you were wondering, which are not navy, in case you were wondering that, too), the bowls are all above the reach of ZL, who is thankfully past the major oral phase, anyway.

Okay, I said tokens and beans, but I'm holding this to beans, instead. I'll talk about the token system we use with MS another time. It has its similarities, but it's enough different that it would take another several paragraphs to explain, and it's time for Rest Time to be over and for us to get on with our afternoon. :-)

*Exception: if they're not done with their Family Responsibilities for the day, they have to finish those first, but I usually shadow them at that point to keep them on task and make sure they finish as quickly as possible with no opportunities to get into mischief.


Grateful for Grace said...

I've been wondering how the beans things was going. I really, really like it. When will you post about the tokens??
Plleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease could it be soon? I just got back from the hs bookfair and was telling a friend that I needed to do some obedience re-training (amazing what a prego mom and then a mom being gone for a month can do to kiddos' behavior). I like this system a lot. Could you post photos??
Am I being demanding enough?

love ya!

Cara said...

Nope, not demanding enough. You didn't even mention the Webkinz party. :-P

I've been continually working on that, and it looks like we finally have a date! Okay, so it's almost 2 weeks out, but it's a start. I'll e-mail you

And I'll do the tokens post here in a few minutes, too. :-)