Thursday, March 1, 2012

Change Behavior Fast: The Stars and Smileys Game

The quickest way to change behavior, for most kids, is what I call the Stars and Smileys game.

The Stars and Smileys game 

This game has been a trick that teachers have used effectively for years. I have used this game in my classroom for over 10 years teaching everything from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is simple and can be used at home too! The point of the game is to improve your child's behavior quickly.

Reward good behavior:

Anytime your child does something you want him or her to do more of, your child earns a star or a smile. This can be something you write on a chart, this can be something you draw on their arm, this can be something you keep track of out loud. (My daughter likes to have a flower drawn on her arm, where as my son prefers to have a lightening bolt. It doesn't have to be a star or a smiley face.

Penalize bad behavior.

Anytime your child does something undesirable, you earn a star. You should act excited to be earning stars and upset when your child earns a star.
    • "I hope I earn a star at the store. I really hope when we go to the store today I hear some really good whining. I want to hears something like can't I just have one piece of candy. Or maybe you could say something like, but all of my friends get to have gum when they go to the store. I know I'm going to get a star today. I just can't wait. Please whine for me at the store. Will you give me some really good whining?" 
    • You have to say this in a way that is playful. Your goal is for your child to win!
    • "Ah, you didn't whine a single time at the store. I'm so disappointed. I guess I'll have to give you a star. Well, maybe you'll refuse to help carry in the groceries. Now that way I would finally get a star today. Complain when I ask you to carry in the groceries. Ok?"

A Close Game is an Exciting Game

If you are at a basketball game and one team has 51 points, while the other team has 3 points,  how closely will you pay attention to the game? On the other hand, if the teams are neck in neck, and so close, flip flopping every so often, how exciting would that game be? The closer the sporting event or game, the more exciting the game. The same is true in the stars and smileys game! 

Your numbers should always be close. If your child is ahead of you by 2 or 3, you are looking for the smallest negative behavior to get you a star. On the other hand, if you are ahead by 2 or 3, you are looking for the smallest good behavior to give your child a star.

    • Parent = 6 points
    • Kid = 3 points
      • At this moment, you are looking for anything positive to reward your child for. "Ahh. You went for 10 whole minutes without arguing with your sister. I guess I'm going to have to give you another point for being so cooperative."
      • "You took the dishes from the table. I guess your earning yet another point for being so polite."

    • Parent = 3 points
    • Kid = 6 points
      • At this moment, you are looking for the smallest infraction to ding. "Sweet. You forgot to say please when you asked for the salt and pepper. I knew I would earn a point and win. Point for me! Yes!"

When you loose, your family wins 

First of all, at the end of the day, your child should almost always win. The game can be close and go back and forth, but at the end of the day you rig the game so the child wins. If need be, you can win up to 1 time a week, but NO MORE.


FAQ

What do the kids win?

For young children, they don't need to win anything. Most kids will just be happy with beating you in the game. You don't win a prize for playing a basketball game!

For older kids, sometimes a prize helps with the system. Then, the prize should be something your child would get anyway. If you were planning on going out to dinner anyway, then the child wins going out to dinner. If your child normally gets to go to bed at 8 pm, then the prize is going to bed at 8 pm. If you win, though, your child goes to bed at 7:45!

I have three kids. How can I keep track of all of their scores?

 The kids are all on one team playing against you. Finally, you have a way to use sibling motivation to your advantage and decrease sibling rivalry.  As long as you do not have one child who is willing to do anything to get attention, including antagonizing everyone, they can all be on one team. If you do have a child who is willing to do anything to get attention, you can have that one child be on their own team. (This is extremely rare.) Out of a class of 25 students, I may have 1 child that needs to be an independent for part of the year, but normally after a few weeks they join the class team.

Here is a recap:

  1. Good behavior = star for the kids. (Act disappointed when your child gets a star.)
  2. Bad behavior = star for the parent. (Act excited when your child gets a star.)
  3. A close game is an exciting game.
  4. Remember, while you almost always loose the game, you win a peaceful, cooperative family environment.

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