“Conditioning our children”

“Green and green” is my mantra to Micah now as I drop him off at kindergarten.  They are using the “stoplight” system – green is good, yellow is your warning, red is trouble.  At the end of the day, the teacher puts a “face” (smiling green, flat-lined yellow, frowning red) on a sheet of paper that comes home in the folder.  I pick up Micah and look at the sheet every day and we talk about the day.

Last week was rough….On the previous Friday, Micah was yellow for school and his after-school teacher wanted to “talk to me” (so far, I’ve never been excited to have a teacher want to talk to me….maybe they need to start making up some good stuff, because I’m starting to get Pavlovian conditioned to not want to walk into the after school building to pick up Micah!).

Anyway, on Friday he was yellow and yellow.  I said “aw, that’s too bad, Micah.  I did plan to take you for a surprise treat at Rita’s if you were green and green.” He sobbed…literally from the bottom of his heart sobbed all the way to the daycare center to pick up the brothers.  He wasn’t upset about the treat – he was upset that I didn’t tell him about the “reward” ahead of time.  He thought it wasn’t fair to “surprise” him like that.  I thought as I drove along – all those years of training, 7 years of grad school in psychology learning that “variable-ratio schedule of positive reinforcement in operant conditioning” is best (ie, “Variable-ratio schedules occur when a response is reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses. This schedule creates a high steady rate of responding.” http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/schedules.htm) – all for naught.  My son is tearfully telling me that psychology doesn’t work for him!

So now we’re back to “green and green, Micah, green and green….and I’ll take you to Rita’s.” Monday – yellow and yellow.  I spend a long time talking to the afterschool teacher about Micah being a “boy boy” and that after 5 hours of academics in kindergarten, the only thing he wants to do in afterschool is play (worksheets and more worksheets and sitting at a table with his head down along with the rest of the class is not really what he wants to be doing).  Yes, I agree that he needs to listen to his teachers, but I’d like to know that his teachers are also striving to match a 5 or 6-year-old’s developmental stage.

Tuesday – yellow and yellow.

Wednesday – red….hmmm, apparently Micah has decided to become the class clown with “potty words.”  Yes, Mr. M., I do inform Micah that those words are inappropriate (I think at the same time about Micah and Ryan sitting at the dining room table every night cracking each other up with pee and poop stories….).  You know, Mr. M., I do think he’s doing it for (ahem) positive reinforcement, I mean, there wouldn’t happen to be a group of boys sitting around him cracking up, would there?  Right.  (Psychology at work.)

Thursday – yellow and green…progress.

Friday – green and green!  Wahoo – Rita’s!!  We stop.  We get an ice cream cone for

This machine is outside our local fire station!

him, a guava ice for me.  We’re so happy.  He eats half and throws it away – it’s too cold for ice cream he informs me as we walk through the farmer’s market across the street.  Kettle corn – now that’s what we need.

So, are you going to get Pepsi or Coke out of this machine?  How do we match our expectations for our kids with the reality of how they function?

Top Ten – Disney

Top Ten ways my two-year-old tried to drive me crazy at Disney World:

10.  Must touch every open garbage can and/or push the swinging lid of garbage cans which are within a ten-foot radius of one’s steps…or can be reached without Mom stopping me prior to touching.

9.  Must climb up, walk along as far as possible, and then jump off every wall that is, say, under four feet high.

8.  If Mom decides to bridle me with a lamb “backpack” (aka dog leash – I’m no fool!), must pull forward as quickly as possible into oncoming people….or stop suddenly and explore small particles on the ground…possibly needing to taste them to determine identity (again, only if this can be done without Mom yanking on said chain to stop the taste test).

7.  Must manage to outwit Mom at least once by disappearing for a sufficient quantity of time to make her heart thump and nerves explode, say by wandering off at the Dinoland playground area, cross over the bridge, and sit playing happily in the sand until she finds me (hey, don’t worry, it was an entirely closed in area….it’s not like I went out the exit part of the play ground and was truly lost!)

6.  Must attempt to splash in the water of “It’s a Small World”…or any other boat ride for that matter….”Jungle Cruise” can get the same reaction….prior to the harsh tone of “Noah!!”

5.  Must try to drag the “tail” of aforementioned leash into as much dirt and/or mud as possible, or step on it repeatedly, prior to Mom noticing this act and wrapping the tail over the head of poor “lamby” as I walk along.

4.  Important to always resist Mom’s attempt to have control of the said leash, though once she firmly establishes that she is the one who gets to hold that end, should drop the battle without a care in the world…and take off running.

3.  Must attempt to give every single Disney character in each and every parade a high-five, even if that means occasionally stepping off the curb (a definite Disney Parade no-no!) and enduring the reprimanding “N-o-a-h….”

2.  Must remain standing the entire bus ride to the airport, despite the repeated reminders to sit, blabberings about safety this or that, threats of losing life or limb, and/or attempts to knock me into a seated position by swiping my legs out from under me.

1.  And lastly, must without a doubt refuse to fall asleep on the plane ride home, jump over the back of the seats to play with grandpa, climb under seats to retrieve thrown toys, unclick seat belt 102 times (very fun), spill any drink within an 18 inch radius, and squeal as loudly and as often as possible.  This energy expenditure is worth falling asleep at 6 pm and sleeping in clothes and coat the rest of the night.  Thanks for the Disney trip, Mom.