Pavlovian Sunday

I’m looking at the children expecting them to do something blog-worthy.  Lots of pressure for them.  For some reason I’m reminded of the fragility of life and the inequity of time.  I start spinning and doing parental “age math” in my head….when she’s 18 I’ll be… oh my god!  Then I start doing a self parental critique.. Am I doing enough as a father? Did my father do enough as a father?  Why didn’t he teach me to speak Mandarin instead of showing me how to make french toast? Then I get an idea.  I’ll make the kids a “star chart”.  Not with pictures of constellations but like personal goals. Cheaper than a Tony Robins weekend and they won’t have to walk barefoot over burning coals.  Everybody wins! I pull out a bunch of sticker sheets from their massive sticker reserve.  Sh$#t! no stars!  How could they not have stars? No worries, we use the musical note, smiley and butterfly stickers instead. I take some crate paper and start to draw out an intricate grid and I realize I’m completely confused as to how to approach this.  I google “Child reward systems and behavior modification.”  Super Nanny comes up as three of the top five hits. I love Super Nanny because she believes in treating the parents as badly as the kids.  I’m on a big personal accountably kick these days, as long as it doesn’t directly involve me being personally accountable.  Super Nanny advises to pick three behaviors you want to improve and build up to a modest reward.  I think pink bicycles would be good.  Surprise, the girls think this is a good idea as well. This is what we refer to in the adult world as “alignment”.  Back at the grid I create three skyscrapers, each with 30 floors.  The idea is for them to earn a sticker a day per positive action.  There will be no negative reinforcement as instructed by Super Nanny.

Here’s the chart legend for the four-year-old:

Tower 1 = Pee by yourself at night w/o waking people up =  1 Smiley Sticker
Tower 2 = Do what I say when I say = 1 Butterfly Sticker
Tower 3= Get dressed nicely w/o looking like a circus clown = 1 Musical Note Sticker

And for the six-year-old

Tower 1 = No trading school lunch veggie items for bread = 1 Smiley Sticker
Tower 2 = Go to bed w/o creating a new complex ritual = 2 Butterfly Sticker
Tower 3 = Do homework w/o faking a terminal illness = 3 Musical Note Sticker

I’m rolling now.  The kids are excited and so am I.  Now all they have to do is fill up the skyscraper floors over the next 30 days and new bikes all around!  The four-year-old wants to call Tower 1 the “Freedom Tower”, possible because we live two blocks from ground zero but probably because the nanny’s been watching Fox News during the day again.   I quickly change one of her positive actions to, “Don’t grow up to be a Republican = 10 Smiley Stickers”

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