Me: What is this? Can you explain this to your audience?
Sam: 5 Stars. Me. 1-2-3-4-5. It was easy.
Me: Can we talk about this for your Saturday post?
Sam: I have a post every Saturday?
Me: Yes. If you’d like to.
Sam: Oh brother.
Me: Twice in one week, Sam. That is so great. What made it easier this week? It seems like it’s been a great week, start to finish.
Sam: I got the last star for helping my teacher pack up my folder at the end of the day.
Me: Is that not a great time for you usually?
Sam: Actually that’s right. And I am done talking about this.
Me: One last question?
Sam: Oh brother. OK. What?
Me: How did you do it? I mean what is the thing, besides me offering to double the contents of your savings jar each time?
Sam: The dollars. I want to buy myself something.
Me: OK. But babe, what did you differently today? You said it was easy? Why? If you think about it, it might make it easier, and easier, if you keep doing the thing you did well today. That’s why I am asking.
Sam: (after a long pause) I looked at the kids who were listening and I did what they were doing.
Teaching a six year old to be self reflective about his good behavior is not easy. Actually, teaching a forty-two year old the same thing is proving hard for his mother. The above conversation is actually three conversations over the afternoon and evening knit together.
Sammy’s “star chart” was put in place at the beginning of kindergarten to help Sam pay attention to the importance of listening to directions (my words, not the teacher’s) the first time. The school reward: fifteen minutes of computer time at the end of the day.
The frequency of reaching the coveted 5 stars? On average Sam would bring home a 5 star day, about once every two weeks. In a one more last ditch attempt to amp up the allure of it working, I offered to double the contents of Sam’s saving jar each time he received the full five stars this week. (His teacher is amazing, and has maintained faith in the plan. Her goal: make it obsolete. Let’s just hope I don’t have to take out a new line of credit to get there!) A great chance to talk about exponential growth, and encourage him to start saving and actively listening again.
When and if did you bring a monetary reward into play? I’m sure people have big thoughts on the issue. For us, I have to say, it had undeniable results. And, yes, the doubling offer, was a one week deal. Which begs the question, what will I do next week?