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Monday, October 13, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday - Rewards and awards

Try This Tuesday

You have nothing to lose by going green


Everyone needs a pat on the back sometimes. As the nights draw in and the schedule comes under pressure, it can be hard for children to stay on track. This is where motivation is key. We all respond well to praise, recognition and rewards and this is a way of helping our children realize that we not only notice their efforts but we appreciate how hard they’re trying.

First it’s important to narrowly taylor your reward to your particular child. For example, many struggle with homework. It may be that you want to award them for completing their homework in a timely manner over a period of time, such as a week or a month. However, that may be setting the bar too high. Maybe an award for their best efforts is more appropriate or perhaps an award for remaining calm and having a better attitude towards homework time.

The awards can be configured to fit your family, different ages abilities and talents. The most important element is that each child should be able to achieve a realistic goal, otherwise the whole exercise will bring further disappointment and discouragement.

Once you have narrowed down who will be rewarded for what, it is then time to make the awards. It may be that you can encourage your children to take part in the creative process so that they are more involved if they participate positively. Hopefully, making the awards will provide a crafty play time for at least one of your children on a rainy afternoon and perhaps a little one on one time.

Currently, everyone is strapped for cash and some of us are trying to ‘go green’ at the same time. Whilst it would be fun to see if we can create our own green backs and get away with it, it is probably safer to stick to materials that we already have in our possession.

Under no circumstances should you go out and buy anything new, instead troll through the piles of broken toys and tat that you already have piled up in every corner of your home, or maybe that’s just us? You may, however, buy additional supplies of glue.

Assemble your creations and add a blob of Velcro to the back. Aim for lightness so that they will be able to remain in place in a vertical position. Attatch the opposite Velcro blob to a sheet of poster board and arrange your awards. Fix the awards board to a wall in a prominent position at a child’s eye level.

The beauty of this project is that you can include private family jokes that mean nothing to the population in general but will tap into your own child’s perspective adding an extra layer of insight. For instance one of my sons is very keen on drawing Y-fronts on his figures. No matter what he draws there is always someone lurking in the picture sporting a pair of Y fronts.


I do hope you get the chance to try this one out and reap the rewards yourself!

Cheers dears


It is difficult for a parent to actively treat children differently in some situations. For example, when a child has achieved a new goal it is natural to praise them, you can’t help yourself. However, some children react negatively to praise. Some children are so enraged when they receive praise that they destroy the object that they created.

The reasons for such a reaction are complex. Some people, myself included, find it very difficult to button a lip and not praise the achievement, especially when the praise flows to the other children. Such differential treatment seems absurd. I would note that this is not the sometimes fatuous praise, a general touchy feely, no content kind of praise, but a specific identifiable praise in the nature of ‘you did a great job with that straight line,’ ‘I really like the colours you chose,’ ‘his expression is really funny.’ Since positive words provoke a meltdown, I’ve learned to curb my words, remain silent and bite my lip. I could expound at length but I have yet to find someone with similar experiences.

Your award ceremony can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. For us, the weekend is the best because I am better able to pick a time when they are more receptive.

Involvement and active participation is key but also difficult to engineer. We need a time where there is nothing else more interesting competing for their attention so that they are better able to engage in the here and now. Joint attention to one communal activity is more likely to be successful when other needs are met, other distractions have been eliminated and there are no other impending interruptions waiting in the wings to derail their attention span.

As with all things around here, this project has been brewing for a long time and was broken into small steps. Preparation in advance was primarily concentrated on ‘this is what will be happening in the future / this will be fun.’ Some children take longer to adjust to new concepts, they cannot be hurried or harried, they need time to adjust. The ‘gallery’ transition was in the summer. The awards appeared over two months ago. The ‘ceremony’ was a last week.

Scatological jokes are always appreciated.

Once the awards were made, we placed them in a prominent position for a couple of weeks, discussed, examined and handled them until they became more familiar. We would admire their gallery of pictures and debate which award seemed most appropriate to which drawing. This was in part to gauge their own expectations to see if they had already decided which picture matched which award. By being better able to match their expectations it became more likely that we would able to pick the correct award for the right picture during the ‘ceremony.’

This helps address another on going hurdle, the issue of choice. Without getting buried in the details, every positive choice necessarily means a lost opportunity, if you choose one, you lose the other[s]. Choice therefore induces stress and anxiety. It is one manifestation of OCD and perseverance over missed opportunities. Or, to put it another way, the pleasure of one positive choice is wiped out by the stress induced by all the ones that you have not chosen which might be better. Hence an extended exposure to the new thing, makes it less new, less valued and therefore sometimes easier to choose as the ‘cost’ of making a mistake is lessened. The trick it to time the exposure so that the new thing does not become so familiar that it merely blends in with the wallpaper and has no value at all.

Of course some other children would experience a long period of exposure as more anxiety inducing, longer to agonize over, longer to perseverate upon, as there is usually an equal or opposite effect with any one issue.

Since words can still be a little hit or miss, physical involvement, eye tracking and the kinesthetic connection helped reduce stress, increase their personal investment and advance them to a point where it was possible to try out the ceremony. For our children, we kept this as low key as possible because around here, quite often, actions speak louder than words.

What, if anything, might this mean? For me, this gives me some perspective.

When my children were first diagnosed, the kindly experts told me that they were unable to give me an accurate prognosis for the boys’ future. Being of a fundamentally pessimistic nature, I took this to mean that the future was dire. Being of a fundamentally contrary nature, I also set out to prove them wrong. As a direct result, I have actually inadvertently proved that they were right.

I should have listened to my pal, "It's all Okay," not "look through a glass darkly." Suffice to say that this is a tremendous leap forward.

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