Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Max had a BAD night

Poor Max. He didn't have shoes to wear to basketball practice and he had to miss it. I did, however, start thinking again about rewarding behavior, as Violet suggested in the comments. Here's the thing. Well, the couple of things. One is how good Max is at sabotaging rewards. He tends to not earn them and then complain bitterly that I didn't give them to him.

The other thing, though, is that I'm pretty ambivalent about rewarding good behavior. I think Alfie Cohn has some very persuasive things to say about not rewarding kids. Check out the article titled "Five Reasons to Stop Saying, 'Good Job!'" if you're interested. It gives some incite into his thinking. To really check out what where he's coming from, one of his books is called "Punished by Rewards." Anyway, back to the ambivalence.

The fact is, though, that we do punish Max. Sure, we like to call it consequencing, but that's really just prettying things up. I tell him to go to his room when my blood pressure reaches the level that I'm afraid I'll do something I regret to him. We take toys (temporarily) that he either doesn't put away when he's supposed to or uses inappropriately (hitting someone or throwing the toy at the wall or whatever). We don't take him to fun events if he hasn't done the (granted minimal) chores and homework he is required to do. We are sure to let him know if he does something that annoys us. He gets a talking to.

So, maybe it's better to punish with rewards, or lack of them, than to punish with the above mentioned things. Or, at least, if I'm going to punish him, I might as well reward him, too. I try to avoid don't both with Davan as much as possible. I try hard to parent her unconditionally. I'm not always successful in this venturer, but much more so with Max, who seems to need the control. They like to call it a "structured environment" on the adoption blogs. Honestly, I didn't realize they meant consequences and rewards, but they do. I'd been thinking a time and place to do things - that sort of thing. Just one of those little misunderstandings, I guess.

Anyway, I told Max this morning that we were going to try out a new system. If it seemed to work well, we could keep it up. I let him know that he could earn the black box stuff early via good behavior. To quantify, I let him know that I'd give him a sticker for every time he did something particularly good. The idea here is that he wouldn't get one for mildly dragging his feet, but making it out the door on time in the morning. He would get one for a smooth morning plus an on time (or early) departure. 10 stickers on his sticker sheet = black box.

Then I went out of my way to find things to give him stickers for today. He did earn four. I didn't expect him to earn all 10 in time for basketball practice tonight, but it's looking like he may just get his shoes back in time to go to his game on Saturday. I just have to keep really digging to find those moments....

In addition to the no basketball practice deal, Max had to get out of bed to clean his pee off the toilet and floor. He'd totally sprayed all around, like he wasn't even trying. Anthony found it and got him up to clean it up. He never said anything or even tried to clean it up.

Max spent 10 long minutes crying and wailing and stalling before he finally got the toilet and floor wiped up. Sadly for him, we let him know that for every minute he was up tonight, he'd have to go to bed 5 minutes early tomorrow night. It looks like an early bedtime tomorrow. Again with the punishment. Sigh.

On an exciting and totally different note, Davan came off the gymnastics floor all pumped up and happy this evening. Her coach told her that she's going to test Davan's class for team next month! Davan is ready and very excited. It's only the preliminary test. The girls who make it won't move up until May or June, but the girls who look like they're going to team based on the results of the testing will get to go three days a week to practice. Davan is over the moon about more gym time. Linda has already told me on more than one occasion that Davan will move up this time, so we're kind of counting our chickens before they hatch. Still, it's not much of an emotional risk. Her skills are there.

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