Oddly enough, we’re already in the fourth week of school here. The adjustment process for Squeaker, though not terrible, has been a slow one. The school works with him on his schedule, but, admittedly, as I continue to see him putting his head down or refusing to work or making noises, on those days that they work around him, I wish for more from him and wonder about his productivity in the long haul. We take away favored items on the bad days, and he earns things on the good days, and we know that immediate rewards will drive him much faster than consequences, if only we can get him to earn the rewards.
On Friday, we finally saw a behavior chart worthy of rewarding. He had almost all smiles on this one, with only for frowny faces. So, maybe had a difficult transition during a nonacademic time and yelled three times and chose not to participate during an elective, but in the academic classes, he completed work. He even did six problems independently during math class, and the major struggle the past few weeks has included getting Squeaker to work independently. What a good day! So, The Manager bought some Klondike Bar Ice Cream Sandwiches and we rewarded him after dinner that night, making a big fuss about how well he did that day. We made sure to let him know we had no problem rewarding him any time he had days as good as that one or even better than that.
When we left for school this morning, I reminded him of our special treat from Friday. I got really worried, honestly, because when I dropped him off, he had that sleepy look about him. Usually, the sleepy look leads to him trying to sleep in class and a refusal to do work. Before I left him at the daycare, I had a private little powwow with him and told him he had to stay awake at school because trying to sleep prevent him from getting smiles, and we wanted to make sure to reward him today. He had to do good work to get his ice cream treat.
It felt great to pick him up this afternoon and have him tell me he had a good day at school. I looked in his backpack and saw a bunch of smiles on his sheet with only two frowns. He got another ice cream sandwich tonight after dinner, much to his delight!
This feels something like progress. Like maybe we’re doing something right here. It speaks to the need for immediate rewards when trying to manage behaviors in children with impulse control problems. Charting, like his teachers do for him, also helps him to track his own progress and it gives him a visual to see how he really did throughout the day. He gets two things out of this system: immediate feedback from the charts and immediate rewards when he maintains positive behaviors.
Now, Squeaker also thrives on praise, so I could probably praise him all day long for all the smiles and get good results, but it definitely helps to give extrinsic rewards. On the bad days, knowing he has consequences outside of school also does a lot of good because he knows he can’t get away with doing whatever he wants to do and still get to play his tablet. However, I caution against just using consequences to get a point across. I can’t tell you how many parents say, “Well, I’ve taken everything away and Johnny still won’t listen!” By the time you’ve taken everything away, your child has nothing else to work for. Give Johnny something to work for, even if it’s something simple, and see if that helps.
I’m just thankful that we’ve gotten two good days out of Squeaker so far. I told him today that if we got a day of all smiles out of him, I might just give him two ice cream sandwiches, I’d be so happy. Maybe that’s a bit excessive, but seeing him do well means a whole lot to us and I can at least say that getting him to complete homework has become less and less of a battle each day. We’re really getting the hang of this new routine.
We may need to buy Klondike bars by the case.