Is the reward system smart?

October 21, 2010 · 55 comments

dont run with scissors

Wife Ninja and I have had some pretty interesting discussions the last few weeks, specifically in regards to establishing reward systems. And whether or not its a a good idea to implement one in the classroom? The conversation stems from her kindergarten teaching experiences. She has kids in her class that are demons from hell problematic, and others that are perfectly poised. Kindergarten is an interesting age as the kids are old enough to understand the difference between good and bad, but too young to understand that putting scissors in your mouth (or eating glue) is probably a stupid decision.

Wife Ninja is having a hard time controlling a few of her students. They wont follow rules, they constantly disrupt class, and have no respect for any authority figure (including the principal). WN has done everything just about everything she can to try and control these kids. They just won’t have it.

The other day, WN, came home with a bag of skittles. I figured she must really love me and wanted to get me a little treat. Wrong! They weren’t for me. They were for her kids.

Turns out, Wife Ninja’s school counselor suggested establishing a reward system in the classroom; making examples out of the good students, in hopes that the spawns of satan difficult children will model the angelic children’s behavior. Kids that show consistent “good” behavior will be given skittles randomly as a reward.

I get where the counselor is coming from, but should Wife Nija implement a reward system for behavior that, I personally believe, should just be expected? I mean, I didn’t get rewarded for making the bed this morning, it was expected of me. So why should Timmy be rewarded for keeping quiet when the teacher is talking?

Here’s how I like to envision things. When I have Kid Ninja’s they will be assigned chores. Things like walking the dog, taking out the trash, keeping their room clean, etc. Will I pay my kids an allowance for doing these things? Absolutely not! They are members of the ninja household, and as such, need to pull their weight. I don’t want them taking out the garbage because they will get $5 for it, I want them taking out the garbage because it’s part of their familial responsibility. I’m not going to reward behavior that is expected.

That said, there will be opportunities for them to perform “extra tasks” for an allowance. Things like pulling the weeds, washing the ninjamobile, filing daddy’s taxes for him. You know, things that are above and beyond the family expectations.

It’s these same beliefs that lead me to conclude the counselor’s Skittles strategy is flawed. If I was the teacher, they’d only get delicious treats if A) I hadn’t eaten them already (which I probably would have), or B) they did something out of the ordinary to deserve them (things like organizing the classroom library, helping the teacher hand out materials to other students, etc). Not for things like being quiet.

Ultimately, Wife Ninja will do what is best and what works. She knows her classroom and kids better than the school counselor and better than myself. My wife is torn. She doesn’t believe the skittle technique is the best option, but right now it might be her ONLY option as she HAS to find a way to get these kids to behave! Nothing else has worked.

How would you deal with the hard kids if they were in your class? Do you think the counselors Skittle method is as jacked up as I do, or are skittles the solution to all our world’s problems?

For you parents (or future parents), how do you implement rewards and allowances in your house? What behavior should be expected of a five year old and what should be rewarded?

EDIT: Understand that Skittles was just the example given by the counselor, not necessarily what Wife Ninja would use. She could use stickers/pencils/silly bands etc as rewards. It seems many readers got hung up on Skitlles and missed the point of the article. It wasn’t to focus on what the rewards was, but rather should a reward even be given. Sorry for not making it more clear in the original post.

P.S. Make sure to look at my other post today as I’m giving away one of the sickest PF shirts you will ever see. Ever!!!!

{ 54 comments }

1 Victoria

I read a fabulous post about kids allowances just yesterday, and it’s over here:
http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/10/20/allowance-for-learning-or-reward/
In particular, the following paragraph from it is very relevant, if you replace’Money’ with ‘Skittles’.
“Money doesn’t work as a reward for good behaviour. Just ask any of the management gurus who have proven that money is not a motivator for adults. If it’s not a motivator for you, why should it be for your children? Good behaviour is based on an understanding of right and wrong, thoughtfulness, caring, and consideration — along with myriad other positive attributes, all of which have to be internalized.”

2 Ninja

Thanks, I’ll have to check that post out now!

3 First Gen American

My son just started kindergarten and they wouldn’t allow the teacher to give out candy. They have this healthy diet thing going on right now. My son’s class seems pretty great..no hellians. The teacher keeps the kids pretty busy though. Everyone has a job and she keeps them on they’re toes. Maybe the kids just need to be busier.

I have no clue though because I don’t think I could control 5 kids at a time let alone 20. I give wife ninja a lot of credit.

4 Ninja

Yeah, apparently I miscommunicated the Skittles theory. That was just the suggestion made by the counselor and not necessarily what Wife Ninja would use as the reward. Maybe occassionaly a candy treat, but more likely stickers and pencils. Kids love pencils…haha

5 Makky's Mom

I don’t think rewarding with candy is the best option for school age kids. They do NOT need more candy, especially from the schools that then turn around and teach nutrition, and send home notes about packing nutritious lunches that do NOT contain candy or chocolate. It undermines their credibility, IMO.

Now, having said that, my childrens’ school rewards with candies and cookies ALL THE TIME! I don’t know if it’s terribly effective – the good kids are good because it’s innate, it’s part of who they are… the challenging kids are challenging because, well… they are fiestier or high energy or perhaps, not well disciplined at home. Their troubles can run deep, and a few skittles here and there will not likely help, heck, it could make things worse if they can’t find the self control to behave, and then see all their classmates earning skittles when they themselves can’t earn a single one!

As for the challenging young children in your wife’s class… my daughter had 2 of them in her Junior Kindergarten class last year… the teacher struggled with them all year. You are rather limited in what you can do – my daughter’s teacher would call out the misbehaviour and request that it stop, if he didn’t stop, she would take him out of the activity and have him sit on a chair or the floor alone, if he didn’t comply with that, she would take him to the principal’s office where they would call his parents to come and get him. This happened OFTEN!!!

Another teacher in our school handed out tickets for good behaviour. After collecting a certain number of tickets, they could be cashed in for a small dollar store toy. Kindergarten might be too young for such a reward system. My son’s current teacher (gr 5) has a cookie jar on her desk, and when the children “help her”, they can have a cookie. And last year my son helped the custodian with recycling duties once a week. For his effort and time during recess, she gave him a candy treat each week. Now, not all teachers give out candy or toy rewards. My daughter’s gr 3 teacher doesn’t give out any rewards yet there is always, every day after school, a line up of current and former students at her door wanting their 5 minutes with Mrs. R. and offering their help with wiping blackboards, beating brushes, tidying up and watering her plants. Honestly, it comes down to values – the good kids help out and do good things because they enjoy feeling good about themselves. The trick is in convincing the challenging kids that they too, can get this inner reward!

6 Mo D.

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve been in kindergarten, but back in the day, you acted up, the parents got a call… mind you, this was back in the early-70′s; things were different back then. We would never have gotten away with 1/2 the things kids do now; if you didn’t respect your elders, it was brought to your attention… QUICKLY!!

As for the rewards system at home, sib and I were raised as you plan on raising your Kid Ninjas… we were expected to keep our rooms clean, take out the trash, and shovel the driveway before the ‘rents got home. At 12, one of the birthday gifts we got was a box of laundry detergent… “old enough to do your own laundry” Mom said. We did get an allowance for doing the above and beyond chores (wash the car, vaccuum, etc.). Years later, Mom fessed up that even though I offered to vaccuum the apt. for $3, she said she’d have gladly paid $5! Mom was super-stoked when sib and I both wanted to earn the extra cash at the same time; she got to sit back and watch the cleaning magic happen!

7 Ninja

That’s right. A good ol fashioned butt whooping would probably keep these kids from acting foolish.

8 Joanna

I think that, if the hellions are already having trouble, pointing our more negative differences might make things worse. I might think of rewarding the hellions, even in a verbal praise way, as soon as she notices even the slightest good thing they are doing. It can be so easy to get caught up in the bad behaviour that is easy to see, that we can forget to praise the good stuff. If these kids are acting up, it is partly out of a need for attention.

9 Lisa

I work with adults with mental retardation, and it is very similar to having a bunch of little ones around. The biggest realization for us working with them is that you can’t “control” behavior. What you can do is redirect and change the environment to promote the best possible behavior. This is very similar to kindergarten kids. Kids that don’t get proper “training” at home will not respond to a long explanation by the teacher about good behavior. Their brains have not yet developed the thinking capacity requried for that. The best WN can do is work to modify the environment to promote good behavior. Change the seating to find what works best, redirect when disruptive behavior occurs. Also, it is so important to reward for good behavior, not just punish for the negatives. Does the school have a behaviorist on staff? They always have great suggestions.

10 Ninja

Yeah, I think she had a behaviorist and the VP come and sit in one day to observe. Hopefully Wife Ninja can discover the key to this puzzle. Redirection and seating charts are the way to go.

11 SAM

Nutrition concerns aside, giving extra sugar to the “good” 5 year-olds may turn them into bad 5 year-olds. Maybe she should consider chips, or something that won’t get them so hyped up.

12 Shelley

Has she tried talking to the parents? If the kids are that bad the parents might be too but it’s worth a shot. If she can get the parents to help out by possibly taking away privileges at home and reminding the kids how they need to behave at school could help somewhat. When I student taught in a 2nd grade classroom the teacher did the whole green/yellow/red system. There was a chart on a bulletin board with a pocket for each child with pieces of green, yellow and red paper. Every child started each day on green no matter what had happened the day before. That way everyone starts on a positive note. If they do something wrong they have to go turn their individual pocket to yellow. Another wrong move turns it to red. Each color has a reward or consequence. I can’t remember how we rewarded them. I think they earned points or something for every day they stayed on green. They we had a little class store that they could buy things from every Friday. If they ended up on yellow or red there were certain consequences associated with them. But the naughty kids in your wife’s class could make it to red before the day really started. Who knows. Could be a visual motivator for them to keep their crap under control!

13 Ninja

Yeah and this was an actual quote from a parent “Well, that’s just the way he is.”

Talk about frustrating. I’m sure these kids get no discipline at home, so they think they can get away with whatever they want. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad parenting out there and Wife Ninja’s job has gone from ‘teacher’ to ‘babysitter’

14 Kat

I dislike the idea that candy = rewards you deserve for doing what you are supposed to. This is why many people are overweight, they assume that they deserve rewards in the form of a whole pint of Haagen Dasz just for having gone to work that morning (um, not that I am speaking from experience or anything). And, sugar and high fructose corn syrup have both been shown pretty definitely to cause hyper behavior, usually followed by crabby crashing. Not exactly the mood you want in your classroom.

15 Ninja

Kat, I understand your concern, but the point of the article was about the reward system as a whole, not necessarily what reward is given. Pretend that instead of skittles I said stickers. Then what would your take be on the situation?

16 mary m

kids love stickers. i would do those instead of candy.

17 Lindy Mint

When my kiddo was four he was lazy about flushing the toilet and constantly sprinkled the seat and the floor (typical boy, I guess). We set up a system where we gave him 25 cents a day, but if we saw pee on or in or anywhere around the toilet at any time we would take a quarter from his piggy bank. He was very motivated about money, and still is today. It worked. Even though we are lazy about giving him an allowance now, and he’s totally forgotten about the quarter system, the habit still stuck. It was one of our few discipline successes.

18 Mel

My kids receive a weekly allowance. It is not tied to chores. It is their money to spend on things that they may want (books at the book fair, silly bands, DS games, etc). Part of their allowance must go into a separate piggy bank for long term savings. They are not allowed to touch this money! the rest is theirs to spend. If they spend it all on one thing for the week, well then they’re learning a lesson that there is no money left. But if my son really wants something (he’s 6), he’ll ask me how many weeks allowance he would have to save up in order to be able to buy that certain something. We are very open about talking money in our house, and I feel this way is helping to set him up for future success.

19 Michelle

Did you know that skittles are filled with BEETLE PARTS? Not VW beetles or the Ringo-John-Paul-George version, but the food dye carmine has cochineal beetle parts. EWWWW. Yeah, for good behavior, here are some insects and dead horses (gelatin) to munch on!

In my 4yo’s pre-school class, there is a treasure box of trinkets – like party-favor-type small toys and rings and stickers. If the kid behaves throughout the day, they get a check-mark on the behavior poster and 5 checkmarks = a choice of treat from the treasure box. Yes, the 4 yo’s LOVE the opportunity to choose from the box…and they’re not eating bugs.

20 Ninja

Well, thanks michelle for spoiling my love of skittles…haha. Please don’t share with me what other candy has in it until after halloween :)

21 Michelle

You could always order Skittles from the UK, as those are beetle-free. But they still have animal-based gelatin. Sux to have a vegan BFF – she ruins EVERYTHING and makes dinner-party-menu-planning a B*tch.

22 Samantha @ Food Edu

I see your point, but you’ve got to remember that YOUR kids will be parented by YOU and who knows the background of these kids in wife ninja’s class. Likely, there is some major issues involved if a 5 year old is already disrespectful to teachers and the principal. What the heck–the principal scared the crap out of me when I was in school–still does :). Just kidding–
Anyway–I teach high school, so the maturity level of the students is much different, so many of my tactics will likely not be of use to your wife. I have found that for most kids if you treat them with respect and they understand your motives (like I REALLY want them to learn and be their best)-they respond pretty well and will do what you ask. When they don’t–I am very honest and call them on it and the behavior stops and morale usually improves. For some students, this has to be done more often than others, but it works for me.

Bottom line: All people, especially students, just want to feel valued. I think little incentives (like stickers, snacks, extra time for a fun activitiy, etc) can work. When the problem child does something well–she should immediatley recognize him for it; either publicly or by a getting eye level with him and saying “good job”. Parent phone calls are sometimes sometimes effective–but not always.

I don’t know how bad the behavior is, but if it really disrupts the learning of the other kids–the student needs to be temporarily removed (time out). The learning of 20 students cannot be compromised for the sake of 1 or 2 kids. Period. If the kid is just annoying—somethings are better to just let go. I have learned that the more “little stuff” that I learn to blow off has made me much more effective at managing and teaching the class as a whole.

23 Ninja

She’s sent the problem kids out of the classroom many of times. They’ve even been sent home, but it doesn’t seem to matter, cause the next day, they come back are just as crazy.

24 SP

Life is all about being rewarded for doing what you are supposed to, it’s just for adults, we recognize the consequences and rewards, even if they are very long term. Why do you work hard at work? Well, it is expected, plus you get paid, and maybe you’ll get something extra! You didn’t get rewarded for getting out of bed, but if you hadn’t, you would have been “punished” with being late, running around trying to catch up, and a general poor start to your morning (believe me I know this.) I have been training for weeks for the rewarding feeling of crossing the finish line at a half marathon.

I don’t have kids, but I’ve seen it in my nieces and nephews – rewards get results.

And if we are talking just a few skittles, I really don’t see a big harm, but I see the point others are making.

25 TwinsMama

First I love your position on behavior that is required. Growing up in my house, allowance = something other kids got. We were not given an allowance, my parents made it clear that they had responsibilities as parents and we did as kids. Period.

As a former Early Childhood Educator though I have to say…rewards are good but motivation is the key. One thing I don’t think Wife Ninja should do is give candy to kids. She may end up with even more behavior problems. She should consider the source…the counselor does not spends hours on end in the classroom with those children. So s/he can give candy and then send the kids back to class.

I think a better approach would be to establish a sticker board and provide opportunities for the kids to “earn” their way onto the board by doing thoughtful and helpful things around the class. Now, the difficult kids may not deserve the opportunity to take on a task to earn stickers, but they should at least be given the chance. As they start to see stickers next to their name, they’ll be motivated to do more positive behaviors.

After a certain amount of stickers, the kids were given the opportunity pick a treat (eraser, bigger sticker, pencil). I would of course show them the new goodies each Monday so they would be motivated to work toward the treat they wanted. Sometimes I’d even leave them in plain view next to the sticker board.

I then took it one step further (once all my little ones got the hang of it) and would remove stickers when someone did something that was on my “list of No Nos” also beside the sticker board. So the key was you have to be motivated to EARN what you want. It worked really good.

One thing to remember is that the kids shouldn’t get rewarded for EVERY good thing they do. There should be times when they are praised and don’t get stickers…but still get recognition. I found that when I focused more on the positive behavior (even my little tyrants did) after a while they behaved more in line with how they should. As someone else pointed out, any reaction by an adult good or bad, gives the child attention. For some kids that’s all they want, so make sure to address the bad behaviors but spend more time praising the good behaviors.

26 Ninja

I know Wife Ninja uses the “clip system” with clothespins and different color boxes. Everyone starts on gree and if they get good behavior their clothespin moves up a level, bad behavior moves down a level. At the end of the day (or week) whoever had good behavior can go in Wife Ninja’s treasurebox. The problem is, the hellians don’t care about their clothespin or the treasure box. They have one objective and one objective only: BE DIFFICULT!

You make some good points though and hopefully there will be a breakthrough soon.

27 NoDebtNewlywed

I’m getting my Ph.D. working with children who are at academic risk, have learning disabilities, etc. While using edibles is frequently seen as tool for behavior management, I recommend WifeNinja take a closer look at the children’s behavior (it might be helpful to see if her DO or SELPA have behavior management workshops-I can’t recommend those enough). We typically think of behavior following the ABC pattern: A = antecedent, B = behavior, C = consequence. I understand the B and C parts from your description, but I’m still unclear about the antecedents–what is going on at the moment prior to the child’s inappropriate behavior? Is the child feeling ignored, bored, etc.? Whatever it is, WifeNinja should focus on understanding how the behavior functions for the child, and try antecedent management–by figuring out the function of the behavior she will be better equipped to forsee times when the child is likely to have an outburst, so she can manage the child’s outbursts before they happen by changing the setting, etc. for the child.

I understand your point Ninja–NoDebt Husband and I are planning to implement similar behavioral expectations with our children so they know helping out around the home should be expected. But not all children have parents who can–or want to– establish the same expectations. So as a teacher, I commend WifeNinja for seeking out advice and following through on ways to help her students; way to go WifeNinja!!!

28 Ninja

I like this ABC stuff, never heard of it. Not sure if Wife Ninja has. I know nothing about teaching systems so I’ll run it by her. Thanks!

29 psycharah

Another vote for the ABC method-this works for lots of situations, for children and adults!

30 CB

my 1st grade teacher did something like this. there was some predefined time slot for play time in the class room. she had two sets of toys and games: one set was awesome, one set was normal/sucky. if you were “good” that day, you were allowed to use the awesome set. otherwise, you could only play with the normal/sucky set.

there were various ways to be deemed “good” for that day: you could get a 100 on an assignment, you could do a really of coloring and staying inside the lines, pretty much something that went above and beyond.

31 Lissa

I don’t think that reward systems in a classroom and reward systems with your own children are comparable. I understand and agree with your decision and plans to implement mandatory chores without pay for your own kids – but the parent-child relationship is much different from the teacher-student or teacher-classroom relationship(s). Reward systems in kindergarten/elementary school classrooms are pretty common. They not only can help you with difficult children, but they teach responsibility – being respectful and not disruptive means better opportunities (represented by rewards).

What it all comes down to is that teachers can only do so much. I am a strong proponent of public education, and children getting the best education they possibly can for as long as they can, by the best teachers possible. But I am also a realist in knowing that not all children are going to be the picture perfect example of a good student, and not all teachers are going to be able to save all of the problem children. It’s a sad and harsh reality, but any solutions – whether they are small, like a reward system, or comprehensive curriculum changes – are going to make a difference.

32 Trina

As a teacher, my first thought was classroom jobs. It is a win-win. WN will have ‘helpers’ and the kids will love having a job to do and being responsible for it. Now, Kinder kids are pretty tiny, but even jobs like line leader, office assistant (takes attendance, lunch count to office), book collector, paper passer outer are doable for 5 year olds. There is a fine line between choosing kids who are super capable of each job and then kids who have behavior issues and will need assistance with a job (I would recommend not choosing all of the challenging kids to have a job the same day;). Ideally, this system will give kids the responsiblity of doing a job well and the intrinsic motivation to want to do the job well, which would hopefully lead to more self confidence/success in class and better behavior for WN. Here’s a link to a pocket chart http://www.kaplanco.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=5%7CLT1000%7C0&PID=46715
Another easy one is to incorporate music. There are songs for every part of the Kinder day-transition time, circle time, line up time, recess, lunch, whatever. WN could pop in the cd with the song for clean up and the ‘easy’ kids will automatically start cleaning up, leaving time for WN to walk around and assist students who have trouble with that particualr skill. Just a thought.
About my own kids, they are only 2, I have no idea what they will be capable of at 5. We have introduced the word ‘chore’ and they like to set the table, empty the dishwasher (silverware) and help take out the recycle trash. I honestly don’t know how we will incorporate allowance just yet. But we do hope to instill a strong work ethic and raise self motivted, confident kids.
Trina

33 Small Town Runner Karen

I agree with Lissa that you can’t compare discipline at school with discipline at home. Teachers have a lot more restrictions on them than parents do, and they’re not dealing with their own kids.

I think a reward system at school can work. In a way, we as adults *are* rewarded when we do what we’re supposed to do. My hubby is rewarded by my hugs and gratitude when he makes the bed. When we cook at home instead of spending money on eating out, we are rewarded with healthier and better tasting meals, plus money to spend on or invest in other things. I know, it’s not exactly the same, but 5 and 6 year old children can’t understand the abstract rewards of getting an education and having a positive, peaceful atmosphere in the classroom. And if punishments aren’t working, rewards might.

Basically (as a former middle and high school teacher), I think WN needs to try everything in her bag of tricks. If one thing doesn’t work, be flexible and try something else. As NoDebtNewlywed said, though, it would be very helpful to try to find the cause of the bad behavior. Adjusting the cause of the behavior may help to avoid it.

Some of it may also be WN’s confidence level. Although they couldn’t verbalize it, the kids can probably tell if she’s feeling diffident about her skills in the classroom. I know she has subbed, but having your own classroom is a different story, and the kids may get a sense that they can take advantage of her if she is unsure.

And you know? Some years are just hard. Next year she may have a group of angels, and the following year could be hell on wheels. A lot of it can depend on the mix of the kids.

34 Lola

I think rewards for good behavior are OK, especially for the Kindergarten set. Ideally, WN could establish a partnership with the hellions’ parents to reinforce at home what she’s trying to get through to them at school. Then when she sends home a frowney face, the parents back her up and set a consequence, and then when she send home a smiley face, the parents give praise, a treat, etc. I agree with Lissa’s comment that, in the end, there’s only so much teachers can do. Plus, kids have their individual personalities and then group personalities – sometimes kids do things together they wouldn’t think to do on their own. Good strategies will go a long way in heading off misbehavior, but I’m afraid WN will need to spend the extra time disciplining the wild ones and then outlast them in the battle of wills. Does she have the people resources beyond the school counselor or a teacher mentor to divide and conquer – i.e., does she have a teacher’s aide in the classroom,or does she have some parents (who get it) who are allowed to come in and volunteer? At any rate, be sure to tell WN we all know she’s working hard for her students, and she’s making a difference in their lives, especially The Wild Ones!

As far as rewards and allowances on the home front, we generally didn’t give a weekly allowance. We went more with the “you are part of the family corporation and share in the work/reward of the corporation, as profits are available and as benefits your age, ability, etc.” model. The kids’ main job was doing well in school. Then, as corporate employees, their job was helping out, as directed by the family Chief of Operations (me) or by the Director of Special Programs (the hubs). As the kids needed/wanted things, they would make their pitch to the COO and/or DSP and we’d negotiate on a case-by-case basis.

The hubs and I kept our kids reasonably busy throughout their childhoods – soccer, scouts, piano & band, church activities – and we demanded they master all their schoolwork – so they didn’t have a lot of extra time to dwell on getting “things” that they assumed would make their life fun (Just video games back then. I am so glad they were all out of grade school by the time iPods, cell phones, social media, etc. all came along). Also, we didn’t have cable for years, and they only watched non-commercial TV (Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, etc.) before they started school. When they heard about other TV shows when they went to school and wanted to watch them, I generally taped the shows and we sped through the commercials! So the less they see/want, the less they have to worry about money.

35 Khaleef @ KNS Financial

I agree with you. They should not be rewarded for doing what is normal and expected! What needs to happen is that those parents need to be held accountable and get their kids in line!

36 JT

I have a kid in kindergarten this year. His teacher runs a reward system based on candy (ironically the candy is skittles). The reward is based on doing something above and beyond what is required. The kids get one skittle for that behavior. It is a reward for the kids but one skittle is not too much sugar.
I don’t care what skittles have in them I still think they are delicious.

37 Kaye

I have several comments, so this might be long. You’ve been warned.

I grew up being expected to do tasks because that’s what you did in our family. Once I got old enough to need money for myself, I got an allowance to manage for myself but not for chores. I got it just because. Although I didn’t work for it specifically, I certainly COULD have it taken away for any act that my parents deemed worthy of taking away part or all of my allowance.

We have a 5 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. We plan to do something similar to what you discuss. Our son loves buying stuff with his own money, but right now only gets the change he finds in the laundry room and birthday money from family. We have taken some on occassion for disobedience and it about killed him. Obviously money will be a big motivator to him.

Our son truly is just a good kid. I would like to take credit for awesome parenting, but honestly, he just always has been good. Our daughter is more of a handful, so I’m interested in seeing how much is our parenting vs the nature of the child, which is sure to show more in our daughter’s personality.

We used a reward system for potty training for example. At first when he was clueless, we danced, applauded, and generally made fools of ourselves when he did what he was supposed to. As he realized that was what was expected of him, we moved on to M&Ms. Once he was regularly doing what he was expected with those, we moved on to stickers. There was no final reward for the number of sticker or anything. He just liked getting to put stickers on a poster board at the age of 2. So although that in itself is different that what you are talking about, maybe it could be a progressive treat like that. Start with something “big” that commands their attention. Once this works (I hope?), a new norm could be established and rewards given on a smaller level. And smaller still. This may not work. I have no idea.

I hate to admit it, but I cringe at the way some of my son’s friends act. Some of it is parenting and some of it is just the kids’ natures. Either way, it is frustrating to me. I thank God regularly that they are not my child. Is that horrible?

It’s the reason I did not decide to be a teacher like the vast majority of my family. I couldn’t handle it.

38 Heather

My son is in kindergarten and while I am not a teacher..I feel her pain! There are two little boys in his class that when my son gets to going with them..well, teacher has her hands full. For my son, time outs have worked. Not so sure on the others.

Not sure if you wife is familiar with Love and Logic….that may be of help. We’re starting more of that with our son.

39 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

First thing – you make your bed? Very cool but unexpected (Mr. BFS and I are both of the mindset that we’re just going to sleepin it again in 16 hours…).

Secondly – sometimes, as a teacher, bribery works. Yes, your kids will need to be taught that they should behave and do their chores just because. Sadly, my husband got each set of his kids for about an hour a day…that’s just not enough time to teach them life lessons fast enough to also balance teaching the stuff they have to learn. He used candy, pencils, and donated coupons from McD’s to get his spawns of satan to behave…they quickly were told that everybody who didn’t act up would get fill-in-the-blank and they wouldn’t. They settled down within 2 weeks and hubby could teach Science to 8th graders as needed…

40 suzanne

As a parent of one of the “problem” kids in kindergarden – I can assure you that before having this son I also thought it was all about the parenting, I’m not so sure now.

Kids do well if they can; that if a kid could do well he would do well.
Kids with social, emotional, and behavioural challenges lack important thinking skills.
from Lost at School written by Ross W. Greene

Please have Wife Ninja read this book – those problem kids deserve help learning behaviour the same as learning to read, learning to write and math. Would she send a child home because they can’t read a word that she has been teaching for a week? Or on a time out? Why is it really any different for kindergarden age children learning control. There are many adults who cannot control their spending – punish or help them? I can tell you that if Wife Ninja has already taught those problem kids that a trip to the treasure box is out of their reach – then they have given up trying. Her reward likely means nothing to them because the goals she has set are too high. She is practicing “fairness” but she is not fair. Every child needs something different and needs different goals and should be rewarded for their individual successes.

Let’s say a child could read Harry Potter at age 5 and add double digits then that child would require very little teaching in those areas. Shouldn’t the parent expect at the end of the year the teacher was able to help him advance from where he started? After all the parent put in a lot of work before that child even got to school. What likely would happen is the teacher would put nothing into his education in those areas while she catches up the rest of the class. Now behaviour….perhaps that same child need lots of help to catch up to the rest. It is a lot harder to teach behaviour so it might be easier to blame the “bad” kids themselves and the useless parents. I have asked myself many times why do teachers want to teach kindergarden but then get all annoyed they have to teach behaviour….

sorry for getting all crazy on you – you struck a nerve – my child could be in Wife Ninja’s class and in trouble all the time. I’m on the other side – the slow destruction of my child’s love of learning by teachers. I also am seeing the physical signs of the stress in my child from trying so hard to keep it together in class but never being able to control it completely. Wife Ninja might think those kids don’t care but I can assure her they do care – I know mine does – but they are likely developing a hard shell so it doesn’t hurt so much to be in trouble all. the. time.

So to answer your question (as a mom of several boys)
Physical rewards do not help unless the reward is obtainable.
However the best reward is that of praise and positive attention.

41 suzanne

one more word on the skittles – I would question everything that “counsellor” had to say if that person really used the example of skittles. Sorry but what fool with an education would suggest giving any child – especially those with behaviour issues – food with artificial dyes, artificial flavours and glucose-fructose (a manufactured cheap sugar that many experts believe is the equivalent of poison for everyone especially young growing bodies). That is insane! Has this counsellor any experience with children?
Medical studies have shown that type of “food” is directly responsible for “bad” behaviour and in Europe much of it has been removed from food.
Please take a quick look at this article
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607613063/abstract
Also if you ever get the chance watch Jamie Oliver’s school dinners (I think it was 4 episodes) filmed in 2005
http://www.jamieoliver.com/school-dinners
No one should eat that crap – especially at school – and although you say you just used the word “skittles” – it was a mistake that tells me – you Ninja, have so much to learn before you have kids! Be careful you are not too judgemental about other people’s kids before you raise your own – I do believe in karma!

42 Ninja

I can’t say I agree with you. You said… “…those problem kids deserve help learning behaviour the same as learning to read, learning to write and math. Would she send a child home because they can’t read a word that she has been teaching for a week?”

Would Wife Ninja send a kid home because they can’t read a word that she has been teaching? No. But, do I believe, she should send a kid home that refuses to sit down when requested, and instead runs around hurting other children and terrorizing the classroom? ABSOLUTELY! The difference, is the student that couldn’t read the word DID NOT obstruct the learning of others. The child with the behavioral issues, howeve,r did because now, instead of teaching, Wife Ninja has to try and get devil child to cooperate.

I understand your point, kids with behavioral struggles need to be treated differently. And I agree. Wife Ninja has an incredible amount of patience with the difficult kids and does everything she can to promote a positive environment, consistently giving them praise and support when they are well behaved, but I think you are blurring the line of teacher and babysitter. Her primary role is to facilitate learning, not keep a difficult kid from throwing other students’ backpacks around the classroom. She can only focus so much time on a student’s behavior. The parents, should be the ones been enforcing behavioral issues, teachers should focus on teaching.

43 suzanne

we agree to disagree

Since the situation is working so well so far….then by all means keep not teaching behaviour strategies for those children struggling with practicing appropriate behaviour at school and just focus on academics because that is the job. Keep sending those awful children home so they don’t bother anyone (that will “teach” them, those FIVE year olds don’t deserve an education – they are too bad) and blame the parents for their child’s failure in school.
I’m not sure why you asked for opinions when it is clear you have all the answers…..
but if you are interested in another opinion see this website
http://www.lostatschool.org/
Good luck.

44 Ninja

I think we are talking about different behavioral issues. If a student is talking out of turn or doesn’t follow a rule the first time their behavior should be corrected. No they shouldn’t be sent home.

However, wife ninja had a student literally punch another student and say I’m going to kill you. That student should absolutely be sent home, in my opinion.

At the end of they day, neither you or I are teachers so we both should agree that neither of us are qualified to tell a teacher how to do her job.

45 Wife Ninja

I’ve been following these comments and all of the differing perspectives, and completely understand where you are coming from as the parent. I decided that rather than leaving this issue up to Ninja to defend me, I would rather step in myself and not place him in the middle.

Just as you have stated, each child is going to bring different strengths and weaknesses when they enter kindergarten, and the beginning years of a child’s education deals greatly with teaching behaviors. After all, I think we agree that it is NOT just about a child’s academics, but about the child as a whole. That is why I am a teacher….because I care. Sending a child home is not a decision that I as the teacher make (that has always been the decision of the administration). My responsibility, however, is for the safety of my students, and the learning environment in my classroom. A child who GREATLY interrupts this safe environment needs to take a break until he can regain control- which I think has been absolutely necessary for this child. If I allowed him to destroy property and hurt students in my classroom, what does that teach him for his future, and what does that teach the rest of my kindergartners watching? Respectfully, this child is not your child. Every student is different, and therefore different approaches, reward systems, and steps of discipline are taken, taking into account who that child was when they walked through the classroom door. You have to remember that you don’t know or understand the whole story (because it came from my husband and not from me). If I didn’t care, I would continually send him out, send him home, blame the parent, etc. BUT that has not been the case. We are in the process of working together as a community to help this child (parents, counselor, administration) learn to choose the correct and appropriate behaviors. I love more than anything when I can give him positive affirmation and let him know how proud I am of his choices. His rewards are DEFINITELY within reach, he just does not always choose to work towards them. I don’t agree with the idea of what the counselor suggested to me, but I do agree with the principle of highlighting the good behavior as a METHOD OF TEACHING BEHAVIOR. Every day, every lesson is about teachable moments; not just academically but socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. I understand this may have struck a chord with you because you have been there as a parent- I just hope that your son was in a classroom where the teacher cared about finding improvement and breaking through. If not, I am deeply apologetic, because that is not what your child deserved. At the same time, please do not think that for one second I am at the point of giving up or releasing responsibility. Both the student and I are learning each other. I know he knows I care about him, I want him to succeed, and I know that he is capable, but finding what works does not always happen in the very beginning. Right now we are learning together, and working together to figure it out. I hope, if anything, that gives you hope and helps you to understand that never would I dismiss or write off a student. I am there to meet them where they are at, and to try to make a difference and help them grow during the short time I have them in my classroom. I am sorry if you got a different impression.

PS- of course Ninja and I have a lot to learn before we are parents, but from teaching, and from what I have heard from other parents…the best lessons you learn are those that come as you are in the middle of it. No one can have it all together before the children come- at least I have never heard of that. What does matter is that there is a space of love and patience for that child to learn and grow in. Ninja has PLENTY of that and there are no doubts in my mind about the type of father he will be :)

46 ashley

I teach 6th grade, and I use a “Busy Bee” board. Everytime the whole class is fantastic, they earn a bee. I hang a picture of a bee over their hive, and when the class gets seven, they earn a party. It usually takes seven weeks to earn a bee. The kids know I’m stingy with my bees.
I also use the school’s reward system which consists of little tickets. The kids collect the tickets for being awesome and then they can spend the tickets on different things around school.
I’ve seen teachers put a word up on the board (like Halloween), and each time the class is misbehavin’ the teacher erases a letter. If the class still has letters at the end of a certain period, they earn a reward (like a Halloween treat or a movie).
I also had a teacher in grade school who had a warm fuzzy jar. Everytime the class was awesome, she’d put a warm fuzzy (yellow cotton ball) in the jar. When the jar was full, the class had a celebration. Sometimes it was extra time on the playground or she’d bring in snacks.
She also needs a signal to make the kids hush up. I yell “ONE TWO THREE” and every kid claps their hand. The class shuts up, and I say what I need to say. Another teacher at my school yells “PICKLE” and the kids yell “JUICE.” Silly, but it works.
In an ideal world, all kids would do what you say without having to be rewarded, but this world is anything but ideal. School is less than ideal. One kid on his or her own will be a perfect angel for an adult, but twenty some in a room with their nearest dearest friends is a nightmare! Some of my kids have never seen good behavior at home, so they need it modeled for them at school. Tell wife ninja to reward those chilluns for good behavior or else she’ll be so burnt out on teaching that she’ll run away screaming and never return!!

(Sorry this reply is so long, but I’m a second year teacher, and I felt like I had a lot to offer Wife Ninja today! Discipline is the worst part of this job.)

47 ashley

Oh, and if all her kids are talking over top of each other, get a soft foam ball to throw around the room. Only the kid with the ball gets to talk, and if you talk out of turn, you sit down and don’t get to play catch with the rest of the room!

And call parents. You’d be surprised at how many still want their kids to do well in school :)

48 Ninja

I’m consistently impressed by the thoughtfulness of each comment. You guys make this blogging thing worthwhile! I’ve shared all of the comments with Wife Ninja and she is even motivated to do another guest post! She’s gonna work on the ABC method and the “passing a ball around” gig to see if that can help with behavioral struggles. Oh, and we’ve decided against skittles…haha.

49 The Everyday Minimalist

Honestly, my mom who is a teacher says you have to treat them like monkeys, in the sense that they are all out for some fun and adventure and after they get it out of their system, they calm down and are better.

I think if she makes it a game (whatever it is they’re doing) it might help.

50 michelle

I love that she is giving the kids treats on a *random basis* for good behavior. That’s thinking outside the Skinner box!

It makes sense, of course. If you enjoyed the treat and got it consistently, you’d only be good when you wanted a treat. With a random system of reward for good behavior, you’d be good most or all of the time since you never knew when the treat was coming and you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity since it was completely random (but still related to the behavior).

If she continues in this manner I’d be quite interested in a followup. It’s an interesting experiment.

51 undercoverkitty

I teach elementary school and had taught 7 to 10 year olds in the past three years I’ve been teaching. Throughout my short teachg experience, one thing I have observed is that kids will misbehave no matter how old, no matter why or when.

I agree that a teacher’s job is very taxing, not only on the physical but also on the emotions. Someday I’d feel so frustrated I want to just walk out of the classroom and quit but I know I can’t, coz as a teacher I hv a bigger responsibility, which is to educate and ensure these kids learn something while they are at school.

This year I have a particularly difficult kid in one of my classes. He had physically hurt other students and the most recent incident was he picked up a smaller child under his armpits, swung the boy around and threw him onto the ground. The boy of course fell and got his knee swollen pretty bad. So of course this matter got reported to the school admin, who then called his mother, who then told the admin and teachers that her son had done that because “he only wanted to play”. She offered to pay for the boy’s medical expenses and wanted the school to leave it at that.

A couple days before that, this same boy bit his friend on the arm and threw and broke another friend’s pencil case. He had kicked and punched other students before, sometimes in or out of the classroom, and whenever he acts up, the teachers always hv to sacrifice our class time to deal with his antics.

So when a fellow reader commented that teachers often don’t pay enough attention to children who are slow/difficult/learning disabled and help them learn the materials, I think that is a rsather unfair statement. If a child is not able to catch up/learn how to do certain skills but is a good kid, it makes teaching him a lot easier because at least I know I won’t have to worry abt him disrupting other children who want to focus on the work.

What I usually do is when I give some work to the class, I will call or sit with the few children who are hvg trouble understanding the material and go through it again with them. Most of the time it works because it’s a smaller group and they get exclusive attention from me the teacher. Tho sometimes that is not feasible and again, parents shudnt always expect the teachers to do all the teaching. Support at home is also very important.

When a child misbheaves, it disrupts learning and the class’ harmony, causes other children to fear for their own safety and takes away from precious class time that could and should have been used for learning instead.

Parents often ask me how to best deal with their child. Sometimes I am tempted to say I don’t know and its your child but I always bite my tongue and focus on the good bheaviours coz each child has a good and bad side. I also find it amazing that parents seem to think that just because their child is an angel at home, he would be an angel at school too.

Sorry for the long post, I feel the need to defend a teacher’s job is not to babysit. We are supposed to teach, educate and facilitate learning, so kudos to Wife Ninja – I think you’re doing a great job! Don’t give up, I hope someday your little ward will see the light and changes his behaviours :)

52 Everyday Tips

Well, considering there are so many hellions in the world because many children run the house, it puts your wife in a tough position. If I were her, I would do whatever it took to get through the day. If Skittles make the class easy to teach, then I would give skittles. If it was Mad Magazines, I would hand out Mad Magazines. However, some kids are just hell on wheels. If they misbehave at home, it would be hard for them to ‘turn it off’ at school too. Can she talk to the parents and get them involved in some type of reward system? (Or whatever system works for them, if anything?)

Maybe WN needs to reward herself with some whiskey when she gets home for getting through her day? :)

53 Serendipity

I’m not a teacher but I work with kids from ages 5-18 daily with my job as a site manager for a non-profit that deals with ” out of control” youth. I don’t think their out of control per say, a lot of them are great, but I do work with a lot of trouble makers. And unfourtnately, you do need to remove children from the situation especially when their being disruptive and violent. I’ve had a kid tell me to f off without even blinking an eye and I kicked their butt out. I’ve also had a kid lunge at another kid and in an order to break it up, I was the one who had the bruises on my chest bone. Kids get crazy and you only deal with it the best way you know how. As for a reward system, I swear by it. I do one for homework and I also do one with fake money. If I see you helping or cleaning I might give you some reward money. At the end of the month we do a little store or auction so the kids can purchase things with their fake money. I also do pizza parties for homework points ( You need 20 homework points to enter the pizza party and you get 2 pts a day you do your homework) and I also do them for when the kids are extremely good during a field trip or a special event. It should be common sense to act properly and do certain things, but unfourtnately some kids aren’t taught that at home or even if they are still struggle with it. God bless Wife Ninja for hanging in there. It’s rough.

Serendipity

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