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Monday, September 10, 2012

m&ms or timeout?

Our toddler is the biter at school.  Surrounded by nine girls as the lone boy in his classroom, he has decided that his teeth are his weapon of choice when a toy is taken from him, or he is pushed, or well, just because he feels like biting for no reason at all.

Our first line of defense, after talking and agreeing with the school staff, was the timeout chair.  When he bites, he would be told, "No, teeth are not for biting!" and would be put in timeout.  After coming out of timeout, he would have to apologize (as well as a 20 month old can) and would be asked,  "Do we bite?" to which he would quickly respond "No" with a shake of his head.   And every time he shook his head "No" we were dumb enough to think he wouldn't do it again.   But bite and bite he did.

So we had to corral the horse again to figure out a plan B.  Along with the staff, we decided we would reward him when he didn't bite instead of punishing for biting.  So if he made it until lunch without biting he would get two m&ms as a treat.  Go all day without biting and he would get two more m&ms when mommy and daddy came to pick him up.

He has not unleashed his teeth on any of his classmates since the implementation of the m&ms.  In fact, when my husband or I walk in the room to pick him up and he hasn't bitten,  he says, "Treat!" and walks straight down the hall to the drawer in the Director's desk where his treats are kept for his reward.

Although it didn't seem so simple, this example illustrates the simple idea of shaping behavior through the carrot or the stick.   When you reward the behavior you want to see, you less frequently see the behavior you don't want.  Unfortunately, we oftentimes neglect to reward "good" behavior and instead, only give people attention when there has been a negative occurrence.

In reading Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Blanchard, Zigarmi and Zigarmi,  the authors advocate for praising to shape behavior and self-direction instead of "reprimands".   In their model of Sitautional Leadership,  reprimands should only be used "with competent subordinates who have lost interest in a task....Reprimands do not teach skills, but are only effective in getting good performers back in line when they've developed a poor attitude toward their work."

So, its almost always better to "provide support and encouragement, and if necessary, direction" instead of whipping out that stick.

When you have pulled out your stick when you should have used the carrot?

1 comment:

  1. There is at least one Red Sage staff member that would look at M&M's as the punishment...of course, there is also at least one Red Sage staff member that can be bribed with M&M's, too...