Expected & Rewardable Behavior: When to reward a child’s good behavior and when not to.

Natural Rewards & Consequences

Children, at their core, are simple creatures. They’re not so different from us. Behavior that has benefits to them is repeated. Behavior that has negative consequences are not. Two simple categories right? Yes… but they both apply in two ways. Let me break it down like this:

  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring benefits will be repeated.
  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring (seemingly) negative consequences will not be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring benefit will be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring negative consequences will not be repeated.

Basically I’m trying to point out that some good behaviors are their own reward… other good behaviors are not. Some, like cleaning a room, have built-in benefits. Others, like telling the truth, can seem to have consequences rather than rewards for our kids. Our goal as proper disciplinarians is to exaggerate the benefits of good behavior and the consequences of the bad. This becomes especially important when life seems to reward the bad and punish the good. Parents are wise when they provide incentives for children to choose the right over the wrong in spite of naturally occurring consequences.

Rewardable Behavior & Expected Behavior

If you’ve read any of my other articles on Proper Discipline then you know that I believe in setting Minimum Standards for your Child. Minimum standards help you to be consistent when discouraging unwanted behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is what I would call Expectations. Expectations is a fair and achievable set of goals we set for our children’s behavior.

Have a look at the diagram below:

ExpectedRewardableBehavior

Anything between your Minimum Requirements and your Expectations is Expected or Good Behavior. Note that even the color of the background has a purpose. Expected behavior is not Perfect Behavior. Children are still allowed to have moods, bad hair days and etc… as long as they don’t drop below our Minimum Requirements. Anything above our Expectations is Rewardable Behavior… and anything that drops blow our Minimum Requirements is punishable. I keep this diagram as a mental image in my mind when dealing with my children. Placing a mental pin on based on their current behavior helps me know what my reaction should be.

Practical Application Time

Enough theory… let’s put this into practice. There was a time that my daughter got a Skittle every time she went potty. Back in the day going potty was an action that rose above her expected behavior at the time since she was still wearing diapers. Once that behavior became standard and expected, the reward was removed. I’m not going to be giving her Skittles for the rest of her life! That girl goes so much she’d be bigger than me by now!

I also don’t reward her for keeping her room clean. It’s expected behavior and it has it’s own reward. She loves her room once it’s clean. She’s learning to put things away faster so she can enjoy it once she’s done. Currently there are rewards for eating or at least trying certain foods. My girl is a very picky eater… and though we don’t make her eat things she outright doesn’t like… we insist that she tries one bite each time we have it. Our Minimum Requirement is that she eat at least one bite. Our Expectation (or Goal) is that she will develop a taste eventually and eat it all. She is praised verbally when she tries the food, and she has gotten better at it, but we save dessert for when she eats a fair bit or all. Recently she finally decided she liked mashed potatoes (told you she was picky) and she was rewarded.

Conclusion

  • Some behaviors have their own rewards and consequences.
  • Parents need to make sure good behaviors are rewarding and bad behaviors have consequences especially when life rewards bad behavior or punishes good.
  • Expected behavior is appreciated but not rewarded.
  • Rewardable behavior is that which exceeds your expectations at the time.
  • Today’s Rewardable Behavior is tomorrow’s Expected Behavior.

If this made any sense at all… or if you have questions… please post them in the comments. If there are ever any more specific questions I can answer concerning discipline, please email me at geeklovesnerd@gmail.com

How A Family Handles Major Life Changes

change

Change is the name of the game around here at my house. I’ll wait to reveal what those changes are until after they have taken effect… but in the mean time just know that they are potentially good changes… but life altering.

Since my mind was on change in the context of family, I thought I’d write up a post on some of the steps Jenn and I have taken, between the two of us… and our children.

1. We’ve talked out everything… over and over… again and again.

Change is scary. It pushes all of your buttons. When the change is life altering, it can easily affect your security, relationship, stress level, moods and stress level. It’s important for couples to share those feelings. We found that we were sharing a lot of the same feelings.

We’re not just talking about feelings though… there are a lot of potentially scary choices to be made when change happens. It’s important to hear one another out when considering your options. Two are better than one and a marriage comes with a different perspective built right in.

We men like to talk things through once. We set our mind toward a goal and start heading that way. It’s already done in our minds… but my wife isn’t like me. She seems to forget the big picture and wants to go through it all again. She wants to know that everything’s still okay… and that things are still going the way we wanted them to go. This isn’t weakness… it’s balance. Someone needs to see the forest… and someone else needs to watch out out for the trees.

2. We’re in total agreement… about everything.

It’s always been a thing with us… we don’t make any major life changes without both of us ‘feeling’ it. It’s mandatory in our family. Even if I’m totally sold on something… if I don’t have her support… I don’t even try it. Why? Because even if I’m right… but I don’t have her beside me… it will fail anyway. The ends do not justify the means.

I truly believe that God even thinks this is a good idea. Our past is full of choices that we made in unity that I know were His will for us. We’ve NEVER made a bad choice together. Never… except our 2nd child. 😉

3. We’re moving slow.

A wise man once told me, “You’ll always miss God[‘s Will] going too fast… but you’ll never miss Him going too slow.” Once we’ve made our decisions we always make a commitment to take things very slowly. This gives God plenty of time to talk to us and  redirect us if He needs to. We also commit to never making a single choice that we can’t instantly un-make if He calls us to. It’s just how we roll. I can’t see my own future… but God is there. We trust him to lead us.

4. We’re putting one another first.

Change is typically done to improve things for everyone involved… but not always. Sometimes the change benefits one over the other. In a marriage that should never matter. True love doesn’t keep score. It is not selfish. It puts the needs of the other before their own. Even without the Bible stuff it just makes sense… when you keep your spouse happy… it makes your life better.

5. We’re not telling the kids.

Though our children are a huge consideration in anything that we do… they are not a part of the decision making process itself. Granted, they’re 4 and 1 years of age… but even if they were teens… the job of directing this family lies in our hands.

As it is, since they are so young, we’re just going to trust steps 1-4 to gently carry them through the transition. Plus, if they don’t have the ability to understand something… it’s not for them to know yet. All it will do is unlock parts of their mind that they should be having to deal with until their older anyway.

If you follow the podcast and the blog… then I  know you’re dying to know what the deal is. So are we… but in the mean time just know that it’s good stuff… but we still need to be careful. Keep us in your prayers.

Geek Loves Nerd, The Podcast, Will Return After These Messages

tear

Jennifer the Nerd and I the Geek will be taking a few weeks off from our regular podcasting schedule. We have no intention of ending the show… we just need to spend some time focusing on some real life stuff (home, job, future) so that the podcast can continue to be fun for us.

For those who worry about such things… no, we’re not in any trouble… no Jon and Kate issues in sight. We’re just finding ourselves tired at the end of the day… and free time is precious. Once a few dates pass and things get decided/accomplished, free time will return.

Thanks for understanding… and for those who pray, add us to the list. The typical guidance and direction will do us just fine.

Set Minimum Behavior Standards For Your Child

Every parent has goals for their children. Not just goals for the future… but what we want from them now. Most of us have a mental picture of what we expect from our children. A list of unwritten rules and expectations that we constantly refer to and use to help judge their behavior by.

The problem with this ‘picture’ is that it typically changes depending on our mood, our location or situation. When we’re short tempered we can be too nit-picky and when we’re happy, it’s sometimes easier to let things slide that we shouldn’t. If you’re a person who’s prone to being hot-tempered, like most men I know, we sometimes won’t discipline because we can’t trust ourselves to be good judges of behavior because we’re over reactors.

One way to overcome all of these issues is to set minimum requirements for your child’s behavior.  Minimum requirements are the least amount of behavior that you will stand for in any situation.  When you set minimum requirements it doesn’t matter what your mood is.  Whether you’re in a good or bad mood, if your child steps below those minimum requirements you know you have to step in and correct the behavior.  This is especially good for those who don’t trust themselves to be consistent in discipline.

For example, my expectations for bedtime for my four year old daughter is for her to brush her teeth, brush out her hair, no whining, no complaining, and 9:00 PM bedtime.  Anything less than this behavior needs to be corrected.  This is the case whether I’m in a good or bad mood.  My minimum requirements for dinner are different.  She eats the same thing we’re having, she doesn’t have to eat it all but she must taste everything at least once.  She can’t take forever to eat and no complaining.  Any behavior less than those requirements gets corrected.

Of course my standards are higher.  My expectations for are much higher.  I expect more than the minimum but anything above the minimum doesn’t mean to be corrected.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be rewarded either…  But we’ll talk about rewards another time.

So setting minimum requirements for church, home, extracurricular activities, school, chores and whatever else can be a great guide for parents.  They help us know when to step in and help kids to change inappropriate behavior before it becomes bad behavior.  Think of it like a pain of a candle flame that causes you to pull your hand back from the pain that keeps you from burning your hand off.  It’s uncomfortable, but better than the alternative.

In future posts will talk about rewardable behavior and expected behavior.  Battle of the teacher comments and feedback on setting minimum behavior standards or any other discipline topic in the comments below.

Sorry About The Lack Of Comics

sad_face

Every time I get my schedule hashed out, it seems that something gets shifted around and the whole thing goes to pot. One of those things has been the web comic unfortunately. Typically I like to do them over the weekend and post them for Monday. The weekends have been crazy busy the past two weeks and nothing has been accomplished (web comic wise anyway).

Hang in there. We’ll get you something good. In the mean time there are still Podcasts and Marriage & Family Advice Articles to read!

What Is Proper Discipline?

Discipline

Discipline used to be a dirty word to me. It still has a sting to it. I had a hardcore ex-military step-father who loved to throw it around while he rampaged around the house demanding perfect order. His demands on us changed moment by moment based on his moods. A good mood meant we could be ourselves, even careless and carefree with our behavior. A bad mood meant we wished we didn’t even exist enough to leave a footprint in the carpet. This wasn’t proper discipline.

When it was time to have my own children, I was outright scared. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to bring up my children properly. Don’t we learn from the example? Don’t the statistics say we tend to repeat the bad traits of our own parents? I didn’t want to… but was I doomed to put my children through the same tortures I endured? That was when learning proper discipline became very important to me.

Discipline is more than “getting onto” kids, correcting them, spankings and time-outs. Discipline done right is just another word for Discipling, literally making your child into a follower of your example… a disciple. Therefore…

Proper discipline is achieved when we provide a relationship of love and consistency where children are shown the consequences of sin and the benefits of obedience.

Proper discipline starts with love.

We all love our kids… but love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love holds a child down while they get their shots… because it’s good for them. Love exposes a child to food they don’t originally like. Love forces a child to focus on things they don’t have much interest in like homework or cleaning their room. Love is also patient and kind. It is not rude, self-centered or easily angered. Proper discipline starts with proper love.

Proper discipline is consistent and predictable.

When children think about crossing the line… they need to know even before they do it what is coming. Your response shouldn’t be based on mood or circumstance. We achieve consistency by having a vision for who we want our child to be, being patient and selfless, and having a set of expectations and basic rules established ahead of time. When children experience the same discomfort when they make mistakes and the same encouragement when they make good choices… they will move away from one and toward the other. This is greatly enhanced when they see the principals you set for them lived out in your own life.

Proper Discipline has consequences for bad choices.

When a child steps over the line, it needs to be uncomfortable for them. The consequences of the transgression need to outweigh the benefits. A child may want to loose their temper because it feels good to get so angry… but if the consequences of the behavior are severe enough, they will choose good behavior because it’s not worth it. What are those consequences? That’s where knowing your own child comes into play. Some parents use time-outs, some spank, some use isolation or loss of benefits. It’s all about what works best with the smallest effort from you… and doing it consistently.

Proper Discipline has benefits and encouragement for good choices.

This is the part most old school disciplinarians don’t get. It’s not enough to discourage bad behavior, you’ve got to encourage good behavior. Focusing only on the bad only teaches a child to not get caught. Focusing only on the good creates a child who believes they are entitled and can do no wrong. It’s only in the balance of both do we see the results we want. I don’t believe you have to reward every bit of good behavior… but encouragement is free and should be given liberally. It’s easy to catch a child being bad… we almost look for badness by default. I try to catch my daughter being good too. If I see her share her snack with her brother… I’m going to brag on her to her mom so she can hear. They like hearing you talk about them a lot more anyway. 🙂

More on consequences and rewards in future posts.

Attention Facebook Folks: Please leave your comments and responses here on the website! It will really help build the community and you’ll see a lot more interaction and responses to your thoughts.

Why Parents Don’t Discipline

screaming-child

It only takes one trip to Walmart to realize something… folks don’t discipline their children very well anymore. You can hardly find a child you’d want to spend any amount of time around while strolling through the isles. Restaurants are even worse. Kids shouting out, squirming, crying or complaining. It’s not just the young ones either… often times the older the child is the more out of control they are.

I think the lack of discipline in the home is the leading contributor to the degrading quality of our neighborhoods, our schools, escalation of chemical imbalances and rising crime rates, drug use and gang activity. It’s a big deal.

So why aren’t we doing it? Why are kids getting away with so much? Why are we pacifying and distracting rather than directing and correcting?

1. Discipline is a dirty word to most of us.

So many adults today were abused or otherwise mistreated under the banner of “discipline”. Proper discipline is not abuse or an overbearing parent… it is a relationship that allows a parent to direct a child into becoming the man or woman God has for them to be.

2. Complicated family situations.

When a family splits up… things get complicated. When money is tight… the urgent will often push the important to the back burner. We love our children… but proper discipline is hard work and so quick fixes become the order of the day. If the child spends time between two households, the rules are different every other weekend. Parents tend to parent out of guilt or as a competition with the former spouse. Since there is almost no consistency parents switch into survival for the moment mode and situations are handled, but not the behavior.

3. Vices

If a parent has problems with smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, late nights, dating or any other self-destructive behavior it makes it almost impossible for them to be a good parent. If a parent is a liar how can they correct a lying child? If mom has a boyfriend over for the night and the child acts out in school the next day, the parent is defensive against the teachers because she is to blame. Meanwhile the child is left thinking he can do no wrong and will continue to take out his frustrations on every available adult outside of his home. 99% of parenting is leading by example. They will only do what we say for so long… then they’ll do what we do. We must become the people we want our children to be.

4. Simply don’t know how!

There are a ton of parents who would love to have a well behaved child… but they simply don’t know how to do it. They’re trying… but nothing seems to work. I know of several parents who have 3 or more kids… then the 4th one comes along and nothing that worked with the older ones work with him. They have to learn all over again how to get the behavior they need. If you have never seen a model of proper discipline, it’s difficult to know what to do. My hope is that the articles I’ll be writing over the next few days will be of service to you.

Proper discipline is one of the hardest jobs in parenting… but it’s the most rewarding. It’s an investment in your own future… and because of the fruits of your labor… it’s not only the best thing you can do for your kid, it’s the best thing you can do for your own sanity. Children not only need structure, they crave it. Like grass that grows better when it’s cut regularly, children flourish when they are given proper boundaries. They make better choices and avoid common mistakes. They’ll become a blessing to you rather than a drain on you. Check back for more.

Discipline Children With The Big Picture In Mind

I have noticed that a lot of folks have a different approach to discipline than I do… and I’d like to share mine. I constantly see stressed out or embarrassed parents trying to address misbehavior in a public place trying to get the kid to be good in the moment. When I find a behavior that needs to be corrected or redirected in my children my goal is to change the behavior forever, not just for the moment. I think this makes all the difference.

It’s the difference between dealing with the same issues over and over case by case verses changing the behavior so that the child can mature (and move on to the next major issue). Many parents find themselves correcting behavior for the moment because it’s quick and gets the job done… only to find that the same issue arises again and again.

A great example is how children act on a shopping trip. Let’s say a child sees a toy they want. We tell them they can’t have it… so the child pitches a fit. Our knee-jerk reaction is to correct the behavior. We want the child to stop embarrassing us and shut the heck up! But the crying is a symptom of a deeper issues. Shutting them up can be easy… but does it deal with any of the following issues that caused the scene?

A child who pitches fits may be dealing with any of the following issues:

  • Anger
  • Lack of control over impulses and emotions
  • Lack of gratefulness, thankfulness or contentment
  • Lack of respect for parents and others

Quickly pacifying or conversely threatening a child to shut them up does not correct the behavior in the big picture. We must slow down, move past the embarrassment, back up for a moment and look at the big picture when we properly discipline our children. Our goal isn’t to teach our children to be good… it’s to help them be good children. Good behavior is a natural outcome of having a good child.

Here is a list of steps I find myself using when dealing with behavior issues in my family.

What is behind the outburst or behavior? Why has it happened?

Not every outburst is due to bad behavior. Before I run in with guns blazing I like to look and ask questions. What’s wrong? Why are we crying, screaming, spray painting graffiti or whatever? If they’re hurt or being tormented by a sibling… I don’t want to go off half cocked and end up jumping on the wrong kid for no reason.

What is the expected behavior or response I want in future instances of this event?

It helps for you to have a vision of the kind of person you want your child to become. I find myself constantly comparing my children to that standard and working to encourage behavior that leads them to it, and discouraging behavior that would lead them away. If you know what you want from them… it’s easy to know what to correct the moment you see it.

What tools can I give to help my child to behave or respond that way next time?

Kids need to know what is expected. They need to know the reasons why things are bad. If they understand, they’ll take ownership of the standards. They’ll obey the rules because they believe in them… not just because they’re forced to. This makes the difference between a child who acts good and is good.

My daughter threw trash out of the car the other day. She didn’t realize she was being bad. I wanted to modify her behavior so that next time she wouldn’t do it. I explained to her that throwing trash out was wrong. If everyone did it the world would be super messy. That trash belongs in the garbage can or recycle bin. I told her she would be punished the next time she threw trash out the window. Now she knows. Just today she saw some trash outside and told us how someone was being bad and should have thrown it in the trash. A standard I set has now become one of her own standards.

Sometimes we’ve told them, but they have chosen not to listen. They willfully lie, have a temper outburst, or refuse to do something they’re told to do. Talking is still important… but it only works after a punishment that more than fits the crime… but I think consequences are a topic for a future post.

So it’s not enough to squash out bad behavior… you’ve got to deal with the source. It’s like seeing a roach in the kitchen… you can step on him… but you also need to deal with the infestation behind the walls unless you want him to come back. So next time, take a moment, get past the stress and trauma of the situation, keep that vision in mind and help that child move in the right direction.