Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I like YELLOW

Chickie's kindergarten class uses a color system for discipline.

GREEN: Well-behaved. (Everyone starts on green.)
YELLOW: Warning.
ORANGE: Sit out from 10 minutes of a "special" (like P.E. or music.)
BLUE: Sit out from a special, and teacher calls parents.
WHITE: Referral to assistant principal.

When students misbehave to the point that they need to progress on the discipline scale, they have to move their own "clips" (clothespins) to the next spot on a color-coded bar in the classroom.

Chickie usually stays on green. When she does, she gets a reward--she can ride her scooter to school the next day (instead of walking.) About once a week, however, she gets in the car at the end of the day and says,

"Mommy, I had to move to yellow."

We talk about what happened. It's small stuff, such as playing at a time when she's supposed to be learning. She hasn't had to move beyond yellow, and so far, just the disappointment of moving her clip has been enough consequence for her. I don't give her more consequences at home. I'm thrilled that she's so open with me about school, even when she misbehaves.

And you know what? I'm kind of glad she's not on green every single day.

You see, I was a very compliant, very "good" kid. But I know what I had to go through internally to be that "good." I was a perfectionist. I feared failure. When I very, very occasionally misbehaved enough that my name was written on the board (the 1980s version of "moving to yellow"), I was so nervous the rest of the day--so worried I'd get a checkmark by my name and get a real consequence, like detention.

My good behavior was somewhat motivated by the desire to do the right thing, and that's great. But my good behavior was also motivated by fear. Doing something wrong made me feel so guilty and so anxious. I didn't want to go through that. I also feared doing something to displease the teacher.

Yes, I want my children to make good choices. But I also want them to be kids. I want them to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes, and then to go out and make a few more. When they learn to behave better, I want it to be because they've realized life really works better when you do the right thing--not because they're afraid of doing something wrong.

I'm glad Chickie's clip usually stays on green. And don't tell her this...but I'm also glad she occasionally has to move it to yellow--and that she still realizes how wonderful she is, at any color.


Tia said...

I worry about this too. Ellie's discipline chart is a series of frogs. Basically 2 warnings and then green, yellow, red. Ellie has never had to move her frog. Not once. I volunteer in the classroom and I know how strict the teacher can be, so I know Ellie is being really good. (That sounds like I am bragging, but, I swear, I am not.) I don't want her to be good to the point it causes her not to have fun. Does that even make any sense? This parent thing is getting harder as they get older, isnt it!

Call Me Cate said...

Yes, yellow seems to offer a lot more learning opportunities. It's great that she tells you about her day and that the yellow is "punishment" enough for her.

I was like you - terrified of consequences. Which in my case progressed into some real problems as I became older and I'm just now getting things together a bit. An occasional yellow that comes with some discussion is a great mild consequence that makes it okay not to be perfect but still motivated to move back to green.

Unknown said...

I really love this system! I might talk with my husband about adopting something similar to it at home because it seems like it would be a great chance to learn from mistakes before getting to the point that he gets a real punishment (and spends it crying). I don't feel like Ian is learning anything from the usual disciplines because he gets so sensitive and cries because he is upset that we are upset with him. Having levels might help.

Thank you for sharing this!

Sandra said...

I totally agree with you that Chickie is better off not being fearful of a slip. As usual, I think your parenting instincts are right on.

Tiffany said...


Unknown said...

Love your post and your point of view re: Chickie's behavior, but I don't love the Orange and Blue consequences. As a former elementary school art teacher, I don't like the message it sends that it is ok for kids to miss a special b/c they misbehaved. Art, Music and PE are learning times, too. I *know* they would not take away 10 min. or more of a child's math or reading time for misbehaving! Plus those are important times for exercise! Mental and physical! Blah! That view of the "specials" is one of the reasons why I got burned out after 5 years. Sorry for the rant!

Eternal Lizdom said...

I find myself jealous...