Would you punish your child for sending you to the ER? UPDATE POST #19 - Page 2 - Mothering Forums
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#31 of 41 Old 09-23-2007, 01:34 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this, b/cI used to use reward systems with my sp. ed. students. And they did often work.

Did you use positive reinforcers only? Can you describe the system you used a bit? Just looking for ideas for this age group. I'm thinking a simple chart with stickers that can be traded in for a tangible reward.....
Here was our goal: to reinforce the idea that being sad/frustrated/angry/disappointed is FINE-- it isn't how one feels that is problematic, it is the ACTION resulting from the feeling that can be an issue.

The system was rewards only. If she went one day w/o a tantrum, she would get a prize (ours was go out for ice cream). Then, if she went two new (meaning the first day w/the first prize did not count), consecutive days w/o a tantrum, she'd get something else-- I think it was a toy for $10. After three days she got to pick a movie to buy. I can't remember 4. After 5 days, we went to a local amusement park-- that was the longest. DD wanted to keep going but we thought five consecutive days were enough because it had totaled 15 days at that point.

Here were the "rules." Our definition of a tantrum was very specific-- she could not yell/scream (raise her voice) at us. We gave her one reminder if we saw the tantrum begin, and told her things like "It's OK to feel sad/mad . . .but remember to do ______." . Sometimes she did not like us to talk and worked it out on her own. Sometimes we'd tell her to do some breathing. Sometimes, she had the tantrum. We said, that is OK, we will start over tomorrow. If she was working on the 3 day goal, for example, it got reset to the 1st day of 3 days.

DD went to preK part-time then, and we did not monitor her at school (we told her this). It was only with us. However, as a result of our system, DD's tantrums at school stopped, too!

Anyway, I saw 2 things. DD felt MUCH better since it was no fun to have all of those tantrums. I would talk about that with her so she'd notice. Also, I was relieved because I saw she did not have some tremendous problem and would need pro help . . .but if she had not been able to control herself, then I would also at least KNOW that, and have a starting point.

I had tried a bunch of other things, like completely slowing down our schedule (we were on house arrest! ), making a "feelings" book with a whole action plan to use it, ignoring, etc. I just grew more and more resentful of how it was affecting our whole family, so I figured the rewards could not be worse than that. I think it worked because it focused on a very specific behavior with a very specific positive consequence.

HTH!

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#32 of 41 Old 09-23-2007, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Here was our goal: to reinforce the idea that being sad/frustrated/angry/disappointed is FINE-- it isn't how one feels that is problematic, it is the ACTION resulting from the feeling that can be an issue.

HTH!
Thank you. We're going to give it a go. We actually used a sticker chart for potty learning which worked better than anything I had attempted before. It's funny, as an educator my natural inclination was to use some sort of behavior modification program, but I've gotten kind of turned off from them by lurking here so much...sometimes maybe it is better to go by your own instincts, no? Well, we'll see if it helps! It has to be better than a battery in the eyebrow, anyway....
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#33 of 41 Old 09-23-2007, 02:18 PM
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Throwing things at people gets a consequence in my house...usually a loss of computer-game time.

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#34 of 41 Old 09-23-2007, 03:13 PM
 
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..sometimes maybe it is better to go by your own instincts, no? Well, we'll see if it helps!
Absolutely!

Keep us updated!

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#35 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 12:42 AM - Thread Starter
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I just wanted to do a quick update for anyone who contributed to my post. I did put DS on a simple program for a week after the incident: he earned stickers for gentle behavior, which he could save up to buy a toy with.

I divided the day into about 8 blocks of time roughly corresponding to our schedule (wake up, breakfast, playtime, etc.) and he could earn a sticker for every block of time that he showed no violent behavior at all. It took him about 5 days to earn his toy.

After that, his behavior was much improved for about a week. Now this week I see it slipping again..perhaps he needs more reinforcement. I think the chart was motivating not just because of the toy, but because he knew I was watching him and would give him a sticker and praise for being well-behaved and gentle.

I know it all sounds very stick-and-carrot, and perhaps too behavioral for some here, but it did seem to help. I think he needs extrinsic rewards for the time being until this gentle behavior becomes more internalized. Because believe me, I have tried all the strictly-GD stuff and still do it, of course, but I think the chart helped him to focus or something.

Anyway, thanks for all who offered advice. The stitches are out; the scar will be minimal.
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#36 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 03:00 AM
 
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I'm glad to hear things are improving for all of you. I just wanted to say that it sounds like this behavior is currently something that your Ds really does have to focus on and pay attention to in order to sucessfully modify. It also sounds like under ther reward program both you and he are really monitoring his behavior and if the goal is ultimately to change something unconscience by bringing it to his attention then letting it fade into a background of 'new' normal behavior then you may really be on the right track.
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#37 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 12:18 PM
 
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I have gotten DH to agree (again) to have sanctioned wrestling times with DS where he teaches him how to touch others and how to stop when he is too rough. We have agreed to this before but somehow Dh never gets around to it!
Playful Parenting has good advice on safe play fighting.

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#38 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 02:50 PM
 
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Today I reiterated again to him that he can NEVER throw anything in this house. Well, he got mad at us for something minor (we were folding up the futon that our friends had used last night and he didn't want us to) so he grabbed an empty tea canister (lightweight cardboard) and threw it across the room when it was explained to him that we could not leave the futon unfolded all day as it takes up too much space. He didn't throw it at anyone, but still, given last night's issue, we sent him straight to his room.
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I did put DS on a simple program for a week after the incident: he earned stickers for gentle behavior, which he could save up to buy a toy with.



After that, his behavior was much improved for about a week. Now this week I see it slipping again..perhaps he needs more reinforcement.
Now I am not a parent (yet- I have one due in February). But I am a preschool teacher. And I have seen and taught MANY kids with self-control issues.

I am not big on reward systems because I truly believe that kids ought to be taught to develop internal motivation for their behaviors. Also, with the reward systems, kids tend to start expecting a reward if they do something they are supposed to do, and if in their opinion the reward isn't big enough then they aren't as motivated to behave appropriately. Plus, reward always seem to have to get bigger and bigger. Like you might start with stickers, and then that isn't enough, so you go to small candy, and then that isn't enough, so then you go to small toys, and then that isn't enough... and it just gets to a point where the reward is never enough.

Also, I think the problem with simply rewarding gentle behavior is that you aren't teaching him how to behave when he gets angry. I mean gentle behavoir is easy when everything is going well. And I agree that it is SUPER important to catch children doing the right thing. However, that doesn't help him to figure out what to do when he gets angry. My thoughts are that he needs to learn that it's okay to feel angry and exactly what to do when he does get angry.

Some techniques that I have used in my classroom (and that have worked with about 95% of my students) are deep breathing techniques and creating a "safe place" in the room or house.

Three breathing techniques that are fun for kids are:
1. Be a S.T.A.R. (which stands for Stop Take a deep breath and Relax)
2. Be a balloon--you put both hands on your head and as you inhale you lift them up like you are inflating a balloon. Then when you breath out, you let your lips sort of flop together (so that you are making the same noise a balloon would make if you let go of it and all the air cam out) and you let your hands drop down
3. Be a drain-- you put your arms out in front of you and make tight tight fists. Make your neck, shoulders, arms, and face as tight as you can. Then breath out with a whooshing noise and let everything relax and drop.

The great thing is that you can practice these techniques when your son is happy and doing fine as well as when he is angry. This way, they become a habit for him.

The other thing I use in my room is a safe place. We create an extra special place that is soft and comfortable and private. I built a wooden box and then padded it with batting and fabric and painted soothing scenes and pictures of stars and balloons on the inside. You make it clear that the safe place is where you go when you are sad or mad or just want to be left alone. It is not a hideout or a place for playing. It is a sacred space. Only one person at a time. And you can bring anything you need to help you feel better. Then you model for your son how to use it. You can pretend to get angry or upset and then go to the safeplace yourself and practice breathing or just hanging out. And you can use it when you really do get angry. The trick is that it is NOT time out. Going there is a respected choice. It's prefectly okay to suggest going there when your son gets angry, but it should never be forced. And when/if your son chooses to go there on his own, that should be respected as a signal that he wants to be alone.

There are also some good books that you can read with him. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day is one. Another one is called "When Sofie gets Angry, Really Really Angry." There is also a series out by a lady named Becky Bailey. She developed a discipline approach called conscious discipline. It is EXCELLENT (it's where I got the STAR, balloon, drain, and safe place from). Anyway she has books for adults as well as a children's series to help children learn good socialemotional skills. If you google conscious discipline, you should be able to find her website.

Ultimately, I think you need to focus on teaching your son appropriate responses to anger. And I think that the biggest key in that is going to be you and your husband constantly reminding him (when he's angry and when he isn't) what he can do when he does et angry and also modelling that behavior for him. (I'm not saying you don't model it... I just know how easy it can be to get frustrated when kids are acting out. I know I make mistakes every day.)

mommy to Christopher 2/29/08
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#39 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 02:56 PM
 
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We need to watch out for those pre-schoolers! They're a dangerous bunch!
I just wanted to say that it is very possible for a preschooler to be dangerous. I have had preschoolers in various classes bang their heads against wallsand floors, throw furniture and blocks at other children, punch me in the nose, bite me hard enough to leave marks that last for 24 hours, and kick me in the belly when I'm pregnant. All of these behaviors are very dangerous. Granted, all these are kids that live in less than desirable situations and/or have had major developmental issues that make it hard for them to deal with frustrating situations. They all have the ability to learn appropriate responses to anger, but it really does take a lot of work and team effort (with all the child's caregivers) to make it happen.

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#40 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 03:31 PM
 
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Now I am not a parent (yet- I have one due in February). But I am a preschool teacher. And I have seen and taught MANY kids with self-control issues.
I was an EC teacher before having children. IME, you cannot compare the two. I thought I knew what I was doing, but IMO, it is night and day.

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I am not big on reward systems because I truly believe that kids ought to be taught to develop internal motivation for their behaviors.
I agree (again, I've read Alfie Kohn books and agree with his overall message) but I think there is a time and place for rewards. For us, it was a way to break the cycle.


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Also, with the reward systems, kids tend to start expecting a reward if they do something they are supposed to do, and if in their opinion the reward isn't big enough then they aren't as motivated to behave appropriately.
This was what I feared. Did not happen.

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Plus, reward always seem to have to get bigger and bigger. Like you might start with stickers, and then that isn't enough, so you go to small candy, and then that isn't enough, so then you go to small toys, and then that isn't enough... and it just gets to a point where the reward is never enough.
Again, this was a fear of mine but did not come true.

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Also, I think the problem with simply rewarding gentle behavior is that you aren't teaching him how to behave when he gets angry.
Not true. The two are not mutually exclusive. Our system was such that it was a way to catch DD's attention-- to get her to be aware of what she was doing. We'd had a safe space in place, worked on breathing techniques, had a special routine with a feelings book (made with photos of her for the purpose of the book) . . .but nothing helped in the MOMENT. The reminder of the reward stopped the yelling in the immediate sense, but then was a way to get her attention for working on expressing her feelings in another way (w/o yelling).

PS I never used rewards in the classroom either.

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#41 of 41 Old 10-09-2007, 10:15 PM
 
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Not true. The two are not mutually exclusive. Our system was such that it was a way to catch DD's attention-- to get her to be aware of what she was doing. We'd had a safe space in place, worked on breathing techniques, had a special routine with a feelings book (made with photos of her for the purpose of the book) . . .but nothing helped in the MOMENT. The reminder of the reward stopped the yelling in the immediate sense, but then was a way to get her attention for working on expressing her feelings in another way (w/o yelling).
While I'm familiar with Kohn's (and others) arguments against rewards, I think there's a class of things and times for which they can be helpful..

Your solution and the process reminds me a bit of Flylady and her "It takes 28 days to make a new habit" mantra. And as an adult, she (and her followers) can say "Okay, we're going to make a new *good* habit to replace an old bad one. This month we're going to concentrate on...." We can see the likely results of working to build this new habit, and what our reward will be (the internal reward of living in a cleaner house, or having more peaceful evenings).

Some of the things charts like yours work best at seem to be just a way to help build a habit, Flylady style. Kids need a bit more reason to work on it, but once they've done it, they become aware of the *intrinsic* value of it - in the case of tantrums, they realize that learning the habit of stopping the tantrum before it starts has the intrinsic reward that you no longer feel awful and out of control. At which point, the chart isn't needed - it was a means to help the child to the point where they can see for themselves the value of it.

Something that has no intrinsic value to the child will never really be sticker-chartable, because as soon as the chart goes away, the reward goes... but with something that has an end that will be of value to the child - I think a chart *can* be a tool to consider.

savithny, 42 year old moderate mom to DS Primo (age 12) and DD Secunda (age 9).

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