Entries in child behaviors (9)
All children benefit from strong, healthy role models in class ( that being you and your staff) as well as in the home. Perhaps you have a child who is in need of a mentor or role model. Numerous studies show that when we give children strong role models they are less likely to engage in anti-social behavior and more likely to graduate from high school. One particular study revealed that children with an active mentor were 32% less likely to hit someone, 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs and 52% less likely to skip school. We can create lasting change by starting in the early elementary grades with strong mentorship programs that focus on literacy.
Wow! Great article in last week's NY Times which confirms many of the principles Dr. Montessori laid out decades ago about the child. A worthy full reading:
Here's a great article by Lori Bourne of MontessoriforEveryone.com
I recently read the book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, ‘A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn, a noted author and outspoken critic of traditional education, including grades, test scores, and homework. Much of what he says is in agreement with the Montessori approach to education.
As I read, I thought about this question: In Montessori, we often talk about the harm of external rewards, but are we using them without realizing it?
Alfie Kohn’s definition of “reward” is broad. He considers grades themselves to be a reward (which means that giving kids money or gift certificates for grades is a reward on top of a reward). He also considers punishments to be the flip side of rewards, and just as damaging when it comes to motivating people.
According to Kohn, our current general strategy for managing people (from students to workers) is, “Do this and you’ll get that”. We often motivate children by dangling rewards in front of them. The rewards seem to work quite well in the short term.
Kohn cites many studies that show that rewards are generally not effective when it comes to changing long term behavior. Most people who complete a task specifically for a reward (like a child who reads books for a summer contest at the library) cease to perform that task once the reward is gone. Not only that, but they often consider the task to be unpleasant once they receive no reward for it.
Using Rewards in the Classroom
He quotes one (non-Montessori) teacher who said, “But stickers are just so easy!” Sure, a group of children may be quiet during class for the promise of stickers, but that “easy” solution doesn’t address underlying problems (Are they being asked to sit for too long? Is the material not presented in an engaging way?) and most people don’t want to think through the situation to find a more creative solution.
We don’t use stickers in Montessori, but sometimes we do use non-material rewards. I’ll give one example. In my Montessori training, I was told that while conducting line time, if the children aren’t paying attention, choose one child that is sitting quietly and draw attention to them: “Look at how nicely Billy is sitting!” By focusing the attention on the good behavior, you are encouraging the other children to also behave, and the well-behaving child serves as a model to them. It’s positive peer pressure.
According to Kohn, this kind of classroom management tactic is rewards-based. The “reward”, in this case, is the attention of the teacher and the verbal acknowledgment of the good behavior. It fosters a sense of competition, which is detrimental to the classroom atmosphere. Kohn says this scenario is an example of how you can reward someone without using a concrete “reward”.
Children and Rewards
Many of us use logical consequences both at home and in the classroom. The work of Rudolph Dreikers is often cited as the basis of this approach. But according to Kohn’s definition, any consequence manufactured by the adult is a reward or punishment.
In other words, we may tell a child, “If you can’t do your work quietly, you will not go on the field trip”. From Kohn’s perspective, this is using the reward/punishment scenario. If they are quiet, they get to go on the field trip. If they are not, they don’t get to go.
This system is behavior-based, and inherently false, since nothing about the child’s loudness is actually tied to the field trip. We created the false connection between the behavior and the consequence. Mr. Kohn would find this type of logical consequence to be more harmful than helpful.
Sometimes there is a consequence built in to the child’s behavior. For example, if they do not keep their room clean, they may not be able to find something when they need it. If they break something valuable they need to pay for it. In these cases, the adult response should be: nothing. There is no need to add a consequence on top of the (true) natural consequence that already occurred.
Is Kohn Right About Rewards?
Mr. Kohn’s theories are not without detractors. Some claim that he simplifies behaviorism to make it easier to destroy; others point to neurological evidence that we are hard-wired for rewards, which promote helpful behaviors like obeying laws and following social mores.
Mr. Kohn says our current philosophy of “do this, get that” is nothing more than “pop behaviorism”, yet others (rightly) point out that humans have been motivated by rewards for centuries, long before scientists starting observing (and rewarding) rats in cages.
What Can We Do?
I don’t think we can ever get away from rewards, and I don’t know that we have to. If a salary is a reward (and Kohn says it is), then all of us are working for rewards regardless of the internal satisfaction that our jobs bring. Every day, our behavior is rewarded or punished. Run a red light, get a ticket. Make a delicious meal, receive a compliment. A world with no rewards or punishment would quickly fall apart.
When it comes to children, we can steer away from rewards by giving feedback rather than praise, avoiding grades and test scores, and letting them feel the effects of natural consequences whenever possible—and still there are times when we will reward or punish them for what they’ve done.
Being aware of the rewards conundrum is often enough to make us re-think our approach to misbehavior. Mr. Kohn suggests some other responses instead of rewards and punishments:
1. We can talk to the child and tell them what they did was wrong and how to change their behavior.
2. We can examine the behavior and try to find the underlying cause. Is there something we can change about the situation? Are we contributing to it in any way? Is the child trying to communicate to us through their (wrong) choices?
3. Have the child evaluate their own behavior. How do they think they are doing? Are they improving in any areas? What can they work on?
4. What can we change about the situation? I found this write up (not from Kohn’s book) called No More Logical Consequences that shows what happens when the focus shifts from rewards/punishments to finding solutions. It’s very thought-provoking.
Kohn calls this approach “working with” rather than “doing to”. And he urges parents and teachers to keep in mind their long term goals for children, such as helping them grow into responsible and caring people, rather than on short-term goals, such as obedience.
Is this always enough? I don’t know that it is. Some situations call for a bit of behaviorism. But I do like the idea of cutting out rewards as much as possible, and focusing on the underlying causes of misbehavior. What do you think?
Here's a great article from Lori Bourne of Montessori for Everyone. It offers some insights on some recent clinical work done by Dr. Steve Hughes on neurodevelopmental benefits of classical Montessori education:
Positive Thinking for Kids
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting
During their growth and development, children go through many stages of self-doubt. They are always comparing themselves to others, and they often see themselves as coming up short. As parents, we can offset this natural tendency in our children by giving them the skills to think more positively. It is important that you really listen to your children, and help them overcome their negative thoughts and beliefs. This is, of course, easier to do if you practice positive thinking yourself.
Our world is so full of negative feedback. We need to arm our children with a positive attitude, so that they can stay focused in the right direction. Let’s look at some typical negative statements from children, along with some positive responses from their wise parents:
I can’t do it.
Take your time and try again. I have confidence in you.
Heather hates me.
Sounds like you’re feeling rejected by Heather, and that must hurt. I know you want Heather to like you. Remember that you’re a very lovable kid and a terrific person, no matter what Heather, or anyone else, says or does. And, you know, she may have a problem that has nothing to do with you.
I’m just no good in history.
You’ve brought up Cs before—I know you can do it again. Besides that, honey, nobody is good at everything. And look at this A in math, you’ve always done well with numbers!
I’m so clumsy. I’ll never learn to rollerblade!
It’s tough learning something new. Remember when you first tried to ski, how hard it was? But you stuck with it, and now you’re really good at skiing.
There is real value in discussing positive thinking and self-esteem with your children on a regular basis. Sadly, these subjects are not yet included in the school curriculum. There are good books written for children, as well as adults, which demonstrate the use of positive thinking. Reading a book together is a good launching pad for starting a conversation. Pointing out positive versus negative attitudes from news stories or life stories is an excellent way of showing your children just how this all works in real life, too.
A great web site for finding lots of wonderful positive messages is: http://greatday.com
Modeling a positive attitude is one of the most effective ways of teaching your children. Children learn what they live. So start presenting your thoughts in a positive way, Oh well, I burned the dinner—guess that means we get to eat cereal for dinner!
Parents always hope that their children will have a positive outlook on life, but most often how this happens is left to chance. When you take this matter into your hands, and look for ways to guide your children’s thoughts in a positive direction, you will see very exciting results.
Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. (http://www.newharbinger.com/) from Kid Cooperation, How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley (http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth, copyright 1996)
Jonathan Wolff, mentor/trainer, has just published THE SELF-AWAKENED CHILD SERIES, a dynamic character education program (for teachers and parents) he created to build self esteem, critical thinking, and healthy relationships in children 3 - 9 years old.
Each of the 15 books in the series focuses on a specific quality of character: “Acceptance,” “Assertiveness,” “Compassion,” “Courage,” “Creativity,” “Forgiveness,” “Honesty,” “Kindness,” “Loyalty,” “Peace,” “Respect,” “Responsibility,” “Self-Discipline,” “Trust,” and “Unity.”
Each book features exercises specifically designed to help children reach the full expression of their character that have been tested in the heat of battle by parents and teachers around the world with proven success. The books can be purchased separately ($12/each) or as a series ($165).
To order: http://www.jonathanwolff.org/catalog.htm . If you order the series by June 30th, you will receive a complimentary copy of CENTERSTONES, an illustrated collection of affirmations that develop clarity, calmness, courage, concentration, confidence, cheerfulness and compassion in children 3 - 9 years old.
Last week I interviewed the co-founder of Love and Logic, Jim Fay. Love and Logic is a philosophy founded by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D., and is based on the experience of a combined total of over 75 years working with and raising kids. It provides simple and practical techniques to help teachers and parents have less stress and more fun while raising responsible kids. Love and Logic offers many useful techniques that teachers and parents can begin experimenting with immediately.
Every Wednesday Love and Logic has a Free Weekly Tip. Signup for it on their website at: http://www.loveandlogic.com
It's a privilege for UMA to find great writers on subjects you and your parents can use. One childhood specialist that we are featuring is Elizabeth Pantley. Here is a great article by her on healthy habits for a child's sleep:
Up to 70% of children under age five have sleep problems. Sleep issues are complicated and have many causes. They’re hard to deal with because when children aren’t sleeping, parents aren’t sleeping, and that lack of sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything -- dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Sleep affects everything.
The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well.
# 1 Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time.
Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly.
Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.
# 2 Encourage regular daily naps.
Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.
# 3 Set your child’s biological clock.
Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone -- the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime.
Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright!
# 4 Develop a consistent bedtime routine.
Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.
An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative.
# 5 Create a cozy sleep environment.
Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.
# 6 Provide the right nutrition.
Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugar granola.
Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods.
# 7 Help your child to be healthy and fit.
Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating – they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!
# 8 Teach your child how to relax.
Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy.
Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and yours too.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill 2005)