My little man is LOVING kindergarten. I was really, incredibly, completely terrified that it wouldn't go well. So, I implemented a reward system. If he earned his hand stamp 10 times, he'd get an ice cream. I substitute for his teacher quite often and I know that the kids can lose their hand stamps for a lot of reasons. Talking. Repeatedly touching other kids. Not listening. Using the restroom without asking. Being disruptive. You get the idea. I had a feeling that draping oneself against the wall and flat out refusing to participate--which was sometimes Matthew's choice behavior in preschool--would not be welcomed. I had no idea how long it would take for my son to get 10 hand stamps.
Exactly ten days, it turns out.
Today was his tenth day of school and we went, after school, to get him an ice cream cone from Sonic. I went big and let him get a waffle cone complete with whipped cream, candy bits, caramel, and a cherry on top because I wanted him to know that I was WAFFLE CONE proud of him and not just VANILLA DISH proud.
He comes out after school and tells me all about the people who lost their stamps, and exactly what behavior earned such horrors. He also tells us how the other kids treat him which is usually positively. Except for once last week when Michael spit on him and this week when Benjamin called him dumb.
"Mommy," he said. "Benjamin called me dumb."
"Well, that's ridiculous. You're not dumb. You're very smart. Next time he calls you dumb, tell him that you know how to read so you can't be dumb."
"HE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO READ!" Matthew exclaimed.
"Then next time," Garrett interjected, "Say, 'I know how to read, DO YOU?'"
(And so, yes, we need to work on humility with our kids.)
But, back on track. Reward systems work SO well with my children. Call it bribery. Call it bad parenting. Call it what you want. IT WORKS. I know people who say that if we start rewarding our children for expected behavior, they will feel entitled to a reward for said behavior FOREVERMORE. But a reward system totally taught Garrett to poop on the potty. I do not (repeat: DO NOT) still have to give him a toy from Dollar Tree every time he poops.
The trick is that you stretch the rewards out longer and longer. In this case, ten hand stamps equaled an ice cream. We decided together that now he needs to earn 15 hand stamps and then I'll take him out to lunch. He puts a sticker on a piece of paper every time he gets a stamp. When he walks out from class every SINGLE day, he has an expressionless face. He slowly walks toward me and then, just before reaching me, he throws his stamped fist out and I "bump" it with my own.
He's learning and loving it and BEHAVING EXACTLY AS HE SHOULD BE. And I couldn't be more WAFFLE CONE proud of him.