I admit it's hard for me to take unsolicited parenting advice. I'm not sure if this is primarily because I don't like being reminded that I'm not perfect, or because I don't like being reminded that other people don't think I'm perfect. Either way, it's hard to take, especially from...
But as difficult as it can be to listen to advice from my twin, I know that my pride really shouldn't keep me from listening to something that might be really helpful. So with (fake) cheerfulness, I told Becki, "Sure!"
And I was really glad I did, because the advice was excellent--good enough to share with you.
Becki is a middle school teacher, and she has a quality that is extremely helpful when teaching that age group: She is very good at classroom management. She is respected by her students, and most of them even like her. So she's learned a few tricks through the years, and many of them are useful in childrearing too.
Becki explained that using the Obedience Chart for both positive and negative reinforcement (giving Chickie stars for good behavior, and erasing them for bad) probably wasn't the best idea. She gave me these two examples of what can go wrong when the same system is used for both good and bad behavior:
- A child who has problems controlling his/her impulses may give up on even trying to do the right thing, figuring that soon enough, the reward will be taken away when he or she inevitably does something wrong.
- A child may think, "Well, I might as well be naughty; I can always do something good to make up for it."
Becki explained that I can still use both positive and negative reinforcement; I just might want to use separate systems for them. The chart can be only for positive reinforcement, so that Chickie will eventually be rewarded for her good choices, even if they are few and far between. We can choose other ways to discipline her for bad behavior, such as time-outs, and taking away various privileges.
This seems to be working nicely and definitely feels right to me. Turns out unsolicited advice can be a great thing...even when it comes from my sister. (Thanks, Becki!)