Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What??? No Stickers???

Kids LOVE rewards!

You know, certificates, ribbons, stickers, sweets, toys, etc.

I don't give "rewards"...EVER.

I don't use a treasure chest and I don't use a sticker chart to motivate children to do well.

As my friend, Mary, said recently,  "I always remember what I was taught...become the cookie."

I learned that many years ago, as well, from a talented verbal behaviorist, and what a relief!

To me, having to give out stickers, and judge who was good and who wasn't had become a stressful chore.  Instead, I learned to become the reward itself.

I'm not saying that I don't own or use stickers.  I do.  I just use them as part of an activity, not as a reward.  For instance, if I have fish stickers, then the child and I might draw a fish tank or sea scene and then the child will ask for each sticker that she wants to put into the scene.

The children and I play with little and big toys, and also might enjoy a sweet from time to time.

One day a 6 year old girl brought in some jelly beans and we sorted them, counted them, wrote the color names, tasted them, talked about flavors and subtracted each as we ate them, as part of a SNACKademics activity.  The jelly beans were not a reward.  They were an integral part of the activity.

Another day, a 6 year old boy brought in a bag of Goldfish crackers.  I grabbed a piece of paper, made a game board, and we were off and playing, counting, talking and munching our way through the speech session.
Okay.  I've Become The Cookie, And Now My Child's Hunger For Me Has Become Insatiable.  I Feel Like I Don't Have A Minute To Myself...Help!

I once met a mother who sought my help, because she had suffered from post partum depression, and she felt that she and her daughter didn't have a good bond.  She saw the close bond her husband had with their daughter and it made her both sad and envious that she was lacking that type of connection with her little girl.

She and I had a consultation, and I also met her daughter and interacted a bit with the little girl, in order to learn more about her personality and play style.  I called mom into our play session and modeled good ways for her to play with her child.  They were both happy when I left that day.

A few months later the mom called me.  She said she needed another consult.  I went and listened to her complaint.  Her daughter wanted her to play with her all day long and she couldn't get anything else done.  Besides that, other people in her life (friends and family) were telling her that it wasn't normal.  That her daughter needed to go and play by herself.

This mother was suffering from peer pressure, and couldn't see that she had gotten what she had asked for, and was now complaining about that same thing.

After a little bit of discussion I came to my main observation.  "You wanted a closer relationship with your daughter and now you're complaining about how close you and your daughter have become.  That's confusing to me.  In my opinion, I think that you should  enjoy the closeness you wished for now, and let the housework slide a little bit, because when she's 14 she probably will not want to hang out with you all day long."

In the end, this mother admitted that she was fine spending a lot of her day with her daughter, but that other people were making her feel like a "bad" mother.  After our talk, she was okay with accepting that it really wasn't any of their business, and she could raise her child and spend time with her child in a way that was best for the two of them.

That was many years ago, and she hasn't called me since.  I'm thinking they're too busy hanging out together. :-)

I Simply Can't Function With A High Level of Interaction ALL DAY LONG!  I Need To Be A Part-Time Cookie!

Once the interaction between you and your child, becomes highly rewarding, then you are responsible for keeping things interesting and engaging, or else you may find yourself slowly becoming dependent on other types of rewards.

Yet, this DOESN'T mean that you have to be "ON" 24/7.  That would be thoroughly exhausting.  You will need a balance of interesting interaction and quiet/recouping time (especially if you are, at heart, an introvert.  Introverts need a recharging time every few hours.).

Children need other activities that are rewarding which they can do on their own, or else they will become bored and get into trouble.  In my opinion, things like building with blocks, talking for little characters/dolls/puppets, watching an educational DVD or youtube channel, looking at/reading books or playing an educational app on an iPad are all good choices. 

If the DVD or other program is lengthy, then coming to the child every 10 minutes to ask questions or talk about what's going on in the show is a great idea.  Asking the child to do something active that the character is doing with you (jumping, crawling, etc). This makes a more passive and quiet activity into a more active and verbally interactive one.

Spread The Cookie Joy!

Help your child to enjoy a variety of cookie flavors!  Teach Daddy how to play the games she likes, or sing silling songs or have a tickle time!  Show Grandma your child's two favorite books and make it a ritual for Grandma to read those two books every time she comes over.

Talk to your child about what a good time he or she had when someone else played with her.  "Wasn't that FUN!  Grandma reads the best stories! Daddy sings the silliest songs!  He really is the best singer in our family!  I love spending play time with him.  Don't you?"

Develop your child's taste for mini-cookies!  Find a playmate who your child enjoys being around and interacting with.  Time spent with the other child has then become a reward, which you can leverage when you need it.  "Do you want to go play with John?  Okay.  Before we go we have to pack our snack, go potty and wash our hands.  Let's do it!  I can't wait to go and visit John!"


A Cookie With Icing and Sprinkles!

Take rewarding interactions up a notch!  Having a social interaction with someone who is a reward and doing an activity that is rewarding is a double a good way!

Imagine it from the child's point of view...going to visit John, sitting together eating our favorite snack AND watching Veggie Tales....sigh...

"Mommy you're the best mommy in the whole wide world.  I'll do whatever you ask me to, because you are so, so good to me!"  Happy,, joy!  :-)

(*And, Mommy, if I forget how good you were to me today, please gently remind me, so that I can see things clearly and learn to imitate your kindness and generosity of spirit.)


FUN engagement--> MORE interaction & speech-->more FUN engagement-->MORE interaction & speech...on and on.  It's a deliciously successful vicious cycle.

Enjoy it!

I do, because I truly love my job!
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Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist

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