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World’s Toughest Job

16 Apr

This story and video has been circulating the internet recently so forgive me if you’ve already heard about it.  A job agency in Boston, MA posted a listing for a “Director of Operations” that was seen by over 2.7 million applicants…however only 24 applied and conducted an online video chat interview.  Why?  It has been named the “World’s Toughest Job” and by reading some of the applicant requirements it is easy to see why only a handful of people in the world would apply or seem qualified.  Some of the requirements include…

  • Must be able to work 135+ hours a week
  • Ability to work overnight, associate needs pending
  • Willingness to forgo any breaks
  • Work mostly standing up and/or bending down
  • Must be able to lift up to 75 lbs. on a regular basis
  • Ph.D. in psychology or real-life equivalent
  • Crisis management skills a must
  • Ability to manage a minimum of 10-15 projects at one time
  • Ability to communicate at all levels (basic to advanced)
  • Ability to improvise
  • Proficient in handling sticky situations (literally and figuratively)
  • Ability to coordinate multiple, often conflicting, schedules
  • Ability to make independent decisions on behalf of others
  • Ability to work with associates with minimal ability
  • Ability to work in a chaotic environment
  • Frequent travel; minivan driving experience a plus
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and a collaborative approach
  • Flexible when it comes to surprise requests
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in negotiating, counseling and culinary arts
  • Unlimited patience
  • Understanding of social media, mobile devices and video games
  • Understanding of finance
  • Understanding of medicine
  • Selflessly driven
  • Valid driver’s license, CPR certification and Red Cross membership
  • Ability to wear several hats, professional and domestic
  • Positive disposition at all times

Some of the requirements seem unethical, illegal, or simply unrealistic.  135+ hours a week?  However, having worked with the guy conducting the interview and knowing what organizations he has been involved with in the past I was not shocked to learn these requirements were 100% real.  Its best to watch the interviews than to have me tell you who would offer this job and who would take this job.  Would you take this job?

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Toddlers Sleeping Through The Night

15 Apr
Baby Max Asleep

Baby Max Asleep

It would appear we’ve come full circle…its time to get Dodge (1) to sleep through the night like we did 2 years ago with Max (3).  Dodge is stubborn…real stubborn.  He’ll kill you with kindness during the day, but at night it is clear who is in control of this family.  Dodge.  He likes to sleep…but only if he is held.  My wife and I like to sleep…but only when we’re not holding a baby.  Max likes to sleep…and can sleep through a Mac truck derailing a train into an air-horn factory.  My wife Kate and I are at our limits of patience and needed to make a change.  We can’t leave him with a sitter because he just screams in their faces till he’s blue and stubbornly refuses to go to sleep.  He throws toys out of the crib, pounds his fists on the railing, and no matter what…he will not lay down.  He stands.  Stubborn little dude.

A little research online (funny enough) brought me to this article:  “1-Year-Old Not Sleeping Through The Night.”  Its my own article I wrote about Max when he was exactly the same age as Dodge and I was ready to pull my hair out as a new parent at the end of my rope.  Dodge frustrates me like Max, however, I’ve seen Max evolve into the wonderful kid who puts himself to sleep and sleeps through the night.  I know the answer is within sight and this time next year sleeping won’t be an issue.  Sleep is coming soon…sleep is coming soon.

Sleepy Dodge

Sleepy Dodge

With Max, Kate and I made a plan and it worked.  It was a very new parent 1st kid plan.  Lots of thought went into it because I was reading about how you can’t nurture your kids enough and should hold them anytime they cry and books about how to ween them away from needing you and teaching them to sleep on their own.  This time around?  Less plan – more adult sleep.  Dodge woke up crying after Kate put him to bed and I went up to comfort him.  He calmed once I entered the room.  As usual, he would not lay back down and threw a fit when I tried to help him back to sleep…so I picked him up and cuddled him in my arms.  I like to press my face against his cheek, kiss him relentlessly, and sing softly to him.  He was asleep in my arms in seconds.  However, now is the part where he opens his eyes every few minutes to check and see if you are still holding him and still rocking the chair.  It can sometimes take 30-45 minutes to get him back to sleep (which he could easily wake up from again in an hour) which is ridiculous.  Limp in my arms I placed him into the crib and his eyes shot open, the tears came pouring out, and the crying began.  Kate prepared to come in to take over and instead I just put up the “stop” hand, looked Dodge in the eyes, gave him a kiss goodnight, said “night-night,” and left the room.

Dodge cried.  Dodge stood.  Dodge stomped his feet.  This is what Dodge does every night.  The difference this night was no one responded to any of these actions.  Game on!

Sleep Standing

Sleep Standing

I sat angrily on the couch and kicked a pillow.  Its frustrating not being able to put your own kid to sleep!  It sucks putting in hours every night on a project that fails!  Kate and I agreed to let him cry for 15 minutes to tucker himself out as we have done in the past.  After 15 minutes we decided to give it another 15 to see what happened.  Once we hit the 30 minute mark we figured “why not?”  We went for 60.  After an hour of crying and stomping Dodge ran out of steam.  He fell asleep…sort of.  Stubbornly refusing to lay down he rested his head on the crib railing and went to sleep standing up.  STANDING UP!!!  That’s stubborn!  Adorable…but stubborn!  He tossed and turned trying to find a more comfortable position but there is nothing comfortable about sleeping while standing.  Seriously…I’ve never seen anything so stubborn.

He stirred when we came upstairs and cried for a few minutes.  Kate looked at me wondering what to do.  I looked at her wondering what to do.  We looked at the monitor.  Still sleeping…sort of…standing up.

Photo Apr 14, 11 24 26 PM

Still sleep standing…moments before giving up and collapsing for the night.

I put my airplane-grade earplugs in, cranked up the sound machine, turned off the light, and went to bed.  Somewhere around the 2 hour mark Dodge gave up and laid down.  He went to sleep on his own.  He woke up around 6:30 AM when he normally does, cried, rolled over, and went back to bed.  He didn’t wake up till 8:45 AM!  A full hour after Max!  Since I was the last person he saw the night before I wanted to be the first person he saw that morning.  He was fine.  His head had not fallen off, he had not turned into a devil, and he was happy to see me and held no grudges.  All was fine.  Last I saw he was playing cars with his brother Max, sporting a giant smile, and looked as happy as he does every day.  The only difference was Kate and I got 7 hours of sleep and felt fantastic.

blood-moon-nasa-eclipseThere was no plan last night.  The plan was, “Are we doing this?”  Yes…its on like Donkey Kong, earplugs ahoy, and let him cry it out.  There’s a saying I always tell the sitters that I had to tell myself last night, “No baby ever hurt themselves from crying.”  Max is using the potty, Dodge is gonna sleep through the night, and darn it all…I’m going to not step on a toy car in the middle of the night when I get up for a glass of water!  The kids can have their day in the sun…but Dada and Mama will have their night in the moon.  Oddly enough last night was the “Blood Moon” which began about an hour after Dodge laid down and went to bed.  We had planned on staying up to see it since we’d normally be up with Dodge…but plans changed.  Second child experienced parent changed.  Good night…and good luck.


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Potty Training Update

14 Apr

toiletLast week Max made the greatest advancement in his set of toddler skills since learning how to go to sleep on his own.  He’s 3-years old and in the throws of potty training which means there is like a 30 second window of opportunity for successfully reaching the potty in time once Max shouts “Dada I need to go pee-pee!!!”  Unlike adults, kids hold it till the last second when it might start trickling down their leg then either make it…or don’t.  Sometimes Max tells me he needs to go while in the act of going (my least favorite).  However, I would say we are at about an 80%-90% success rate and that is HUGE progress from just a few months ago.  So what is the great advancement he made?  It all started with my wife Kate and I teaching Max that he didn’t need to strip down to nothing to use the bathroom.  It started with learning to pull down (and up) his own pull-up diapers and then working on getting him to leave his shoes on and just do it like and adult.  Drop trou, pop a squat, go, and boogie.  The key to all this is we slowly got him used to using a full-sized toilet without any stools, kid-sized inserts, or anything…just learning how to climb up, support himself, do his thing, then get down.  It makes using toilets at restaurants or wherever we are out and about so much easier!  Its amazing.  Then…came the awesomeness.

After a few mornings of re-explaining and ensuring him it was okay, he did it.  Max woke up at about 5:30 AM and needed to use the potty.  Number 1.  He did not call out “Mommy! Daddy! I need to go pee-pee!!!”  Instead, he did as we had asked.  He got out of bed, went into the bathroom, pulled down his pull-ups, climbed on the potty, took care of business, used the toilet paper, and got his pull-up back on.  BOOM!!!  As a parent that is like achieving enlightenment!  Max came into the bedroom and told us he had used the potty.  Without fully waking up we asked him if he wanted to go back to bed or play downstairs.  I honestly don’t remember what he picked because I WENT BACK TO BED!  Amazing!  Sleep!  Dodge (1) woke up soon after and the day began but this new era of Max able to use the potty by himself is fantastic.

On a hilarious note, when he needs to go number 2 (which still requires our assistance for sanitary reasons) Max insists that he be left alone, the door be closed, and he likes to flip through a magazine or book.  His favorite is “Everyone Poops.”  go figure.

Everyone Poops

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Giving Kids Freedom To Explore & Be Alone

9 Apr

silo1I grew up in what is now a well-know neighborhood on the east side of Wichita just outside of Andover, KS.  We moved there when I was 9 and back then, it was just a culdesac of houses out in the middle of some fields.  In time, the city grew around it as did other neighborhoods.  I remember when they dug the underpass for the highway.  I remember when the fields I used to play in became a gas station.  I remember when they knocked down the old silo we used to climb to build a housing development.  I remember when they built a bank next to the pond where I used to go to catch wild turkeys.  Everything changed.  The fields of prairie grass I used to run through as a boy on the outskirts of Wichita are now a laundromat, a hotel, condos, and the K-96/Kansas Turnpike Interchange.  It was inevitable…Wichita was (and is) a city rapidly expanding, searching for her borders.

sandpilesWhen I was 9 I would come home from school, grab my bike, and head out the door to the familiar tune of my mother’s voice saying, “Be back in time for dinner!”  That was it.  “Be back in time for dinner.”  Simple.  What was there to be worried about?  We were kids surrounded by fields with dirt bikes.  We were free.  Our parents didn’t hover over us, ask a million questions, and go play with us on a injury-proof playground.  They trusted us…like their parents had trusted them.  My sneaker-clad feet peddled as hard and fast as I could as my Huffy BMX dirt bike whisked me away to…well…the dirt.  That’s where dirt bikes go!  For us it was “The Sandpit.”  The Sandpit was a few acres of fields, trees, streams, thorn bushes, and giant 50 foot high piles of sand for the golf course that occupied the majority of the rural block my neighborhood was located in.  Later in life we’d race go-carts here, build airplanes from broken pallets and scrap wood, and rickety tree forts 30 feet above the ground.  We’d set off fireworks, catch frogs, have stick fights, have real fights, and just…be…kids.

That place doesn’t exist anymore.

When the brick walls of the new housing development sign went up and the fields were dug into deep pits for future ponds, it was the end of an era.  It was also the end of a certain way of parenting.  The dangers of life were catching up to us (or so we may say).  The Sandpit is now a winding row of mansions where the wealthiest of Wichita reside with golf course views, private ponds, water fountains, statues, and smooth sidewalks.  Parents ride bikes with their kids as SUVs slowly crawl along the street giving way to golf-carts.  There are no sticks to be found for stick fighting.  There is no dirt to play in, only manicured lawns.  No one has started a bonfire in the woods for over 2 decades…they’d be arrested!  It is Suburbia.

Dodge in the backyard

Dodge in the backyard

I was recently sitting in the backyard of my house with friends discussing how things have changed.  My boys played in the background as they climbed on their fort, kicked soccer balls, and pretended to be race cars.  The discussion was about how people (myself included at times) had become hover parents despite our efforts to not helicopter around.  I pride myself on not hovering, but circumstances simply don’t allow it (or so we may say).  We live in a neighborhood with city traffic, though our street is a quiet tree-lined family street, we are just 1 block off a major thoroughfare.  I have a fence and inside the confines of my yard…anything goes.  Outside?  “Max…stay close to Dada!  Dodge, take that out of your mouth!”  I am a hover parent.  Hover-ish.  I don’t lord over my kids at the playground and follow them around…but I do recognize dangerous potential and try to steer them away from it.  However, if I see one of them is going to fall and get hurt I tend to let it slide.  Not the kind of hurt where we go to the hospital but the kind of hurt where you skin a knee or bonk your head.  The kind of hurt you learn from.  I stop other parents from stopping my kid.  “Let them fall.”  I say.  Then they do.  Then they cry.  So I ask them, “What happened?”  They tell me, and by the time they are done explaining they are not in pain anymore.  I ask them, “Are you okay?”  They say they are.  I ask them if they want to keep playing and off they go.  Whatever hurt them before they are now naturally cautious of because they learned.  Sitting on the back porch Max trips and falls hands first and gives himself a stinger in the arm.  Dodge later walks without looking and bonks his head on the patio table.  My wife Kate and I brush it off and the kids do too.  Turns out the other couple sitting with us has just read the same article we have.  Their kids are all grown up so we have a perfect generational gap to discuss between their parents, my parents, their childhood, our childhood, their kids’ childhood, and our kids’ childhood.  It makes for fantastic conversation over beers and the first sunny day of Spring.  The discussion is spurred by 2 things:

  1. An article about an adventure playground in Wales called “The Land”
  2. Our visit to the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plain, KS that morning
Photo by Hanna rosin at "The Land"

Photo by Hanna Rosin at “The Land”

The article about “The Land” is one of my most favorite reads in recent history and I highly recommend it.  It is a long read so settle in.  However, it is an amazing recounting of how we got to become helicopter parents, what inspired it, and how places like “The Land” combat it.  It is called “The Overprotected Kid” in The Atlantic.  In it, the author (Hanna Rosin) tells the story of how the “tornado slide” and other unregulated playground equipment changed the scope of outdoor playtime for our children.  “The Land” is an outdoor space where kids can start fires, dig in the mud, and do what kids do…explore their surroundings.  After having read this amazing article I found myself at the Bartlett Arboretum for a private tour with a dozen other adults…and my two kids: Max (3) and Dodge (1).  Robin Macy, former founder of the Dixie Chicks and current steward of the Arboretum, gave the talk as we adults listened.  Max grew restless…he’s a kid…he could care less about the history of the place or the name of a tree…he just saw open space and wanted to explore.  “I’m going right here to this rock Dada.”  Max told me.  I replied, “Okay.”  I could tell he would soon be going much farther than that rock and was sad that I would miss Robin’s talk.  Then I thought of the article about “The Land” and a simple term Kate and I used to say when people asked why we moved to Kansas from New York:  “Good dirt.”  I remember the first time Max put a wad of Kansas dirt in his mouth and spat it out.  I wasn’t worried about him catching some disease or picking up a shard of glass from living in New York City…I just thought, “good dirt.”  I forgot about that somewhere along the line when Dodge was born and started trying to over manage these kids.  So, at the Bartlett Arboretum on a lovely Saturday morning I decided to see how far Max wanted to go…and man did he go!

Dodge in the pit

Dodge in the pit

At first he started testing me by going a few feet farther and farther away from where he said he would play.  I paid no mind and let him go.  Then he asked, “What’s that?”  Pointing at a garden about 100 feet away.  I explained that it was a garden with paths and if he wanted to stay on the path and take his little brother Dodge with him I didn’t mind if he went exploring.  Max took Dodge by the hand and the two of them explored.  Every now and then I glimpsed over and would catch sight of Max ushering Dodge away from something, playing a game, tossing rocks, and being…boys.  It was hard to not go join in (being a child at heart) but this was important for them.  Max needed to feel responsible for Dodge, and Dodge wanted to know that he had control over things in this tiny world.  When the tour moved into the garden where the boys were I was shocked to see there was a huge stone pit with big rock steps down to it.  My first reaction was not fear…but pride.  I was so proud of my son Max for keeping Dodge away from the pit.  That was what he was doing when he was ushering Dodge around.  He wasn’t playing a game or asserting control for no reason.  He was being a good big brother.  He was doing what brothers do – look out for each other.

Max at the Arboretum

Max at the Arboretum

That was the last I saw of Max for a while.  Dodge wanted to toddle around and Max wanted to run…so Max ran.  He crossed the bridge and headed for the meadow and for the first time in his life went someplace alone in nature.  There were no adults around, no other kids, nothing…just good dirt.  I don’t know where he went but he showed up about 5 minutes later by a grove of trees then took off running again while waving a stick around in the air like a sword.  Our paths intersected at the train depot and he took off running to touch the windmill out in the field by the wood pile.  I suspect he would have kept on going if a train hadn’t come along slowly blowing its whistle and scaring him to death.  It was impossible for him to get to the train as there was a creek, a fence, and a hillock between him and the tracks…but he didn’t know that and came running back to me.  We explored the path by the river together and talked about the trains.  Then we got back to the meadow and he was off again, running through the fields and over the bridges.  I helicoptered over Dodge who was dead set on falling in the creek that day and if it was a little warmer I would have let him just to learn a lesson…though at 1 the propensity for repeat trial and error is high.  Max had the day of his life and has asked about the Arboretum every day since.  It was his first time alone in nature…that is an amazing feeling!  We’ll be going back on a regular basis now.

No More Sandpit

No More Sandpit

The sun was setting on the back porch as we finished our beers and talked about the Arboretum and “The Land.”  We recounted the old days before The Sandpit was a housing development and the sledding hill was a highway.  I asked, “What’s the closest to death you think you came to when we were kids?”  All of us had to think for a long time, not because we had no answer…because we had so many.  For me it was when they dug those pits that would be ponds with fountains one day at The Sandpit.  They made the ponds and the roads first so buyers could see what their view would be like.  For us kids it was still our playground when the construction workers were done and we rode our bikes everywhere.  Winter came and dropped a few inches of ice on everything and blanketed Wichita in a thin veil of snow.  Clad in snow-pants we trudged through the crunchy ice/snow to get to our silo where we hid the treasures we found in the world like lunch pails, golf clubs, and money.  On our way back we took the usual route through The Sandpit we had for years…now directly over one of the ponds.  I remember the sound it made when the ice cracked and how it sounded deep below me like a spring in a tunnel.  It didn’t break at first and I was sure if I kept running I’d be fine.  Then it felt like I was being stabbed all over my body and everything was dark.  Even my eyes felt like they were being stabbed.  I was under the ice.  It was a pond so there was no current and I resurfaced almost immediately though it felt like I was underwater for an hour.  The ice I grabbed onto around the hole broke away and my snow-boots felt like lead weights pulling me down.  I kept grabbing at ice, it kept breaking, and my body went numb and everything slowed.  Then finally a bit of ice didn’t break and I eventually found myself crawling across the ice to the shore.  Terror was on my face as well as my best friend’s.  I almost died and the thought racing through my head was, “I am so grounded!”  I ran home, hid my clothes, took a hot shower, and never told my parents what happened that day.  As you are reading this I guarantee you my phone is ringing…its my mom reading this for the first time in horror.

Sorry Mom.

[UPDATE: My mom called 3 hours after this published]

Dodge by the Treehouse

Dodge by the Treehouse

I think dangerous situations come with exploring your surroundings.  With good dirt comes thin ice and fast trains.  I can tell you I’ve never gone out on the ice since with the exception of Lake George and only when I’m with people who know the ice.  I promise you Max won’t go near the train tracks because we’ve talked about those trains every day since.  Live and learn…that’s the expression right?  Somewhere between my kids having total freedom and me helicoptering is where I want to be as a parent.  I know that’s a broad spectrum but so is parenting.  I want Max to run, I want Dodge to eat worms, I want my kids to have secrets between them…but I want them to be safe.  There’s the operative word:  “Safe.”  I think for every parent they have to discern what “safe” means to them based on their surroundings, comfort level, and the kid’s ability to handle responsibility…but if we don’t give them responsibility how will they learn?  How will we know if they are responsible.  We build it up.  Right now Max can play in the back yard by himself and Dodge can if Max is with him.  There are things that they can hurt themselves with there…but they are learning to be responsible around them.  Eventually I hope they will be out the door and I will be calling after them saying, “Be back in time for dinner!”  I cherish my childhood and I have my parents to thank for it.  Nowadays, Kate’s parent’s motto is “If we don’t hear from you we assume things are great.”  That’s the message they sent their kids off to college with.  How cool!  Freedom to explore.

Bartlett Arboretum

Bartlett Arboretum

Yesterday I attended the memorial service of a friend.  One of the first of our motley crew to pass away.  33 years old.  It turns out we are not invincible, not everyone comes up through the hole in the ice, and some of us won’t be home for dinner.  This has presented me with the conundrum of wanting to let my kids roam free while holding them close so nothing bad ever happens to them.  That is parenting…right there.  Wanting better for your kids.  Maybe they don’t need better?  Maybe they need more of the same?  I’m alive…and I have my parents to thank for that, and myself.  Yeah…I fell through the ice one day when I was a kid…but I also called my parents to come pick me up from a high school party when my ride got drunk and I didn’t feel safe getting home.  I got busted drinking beers in the back yard and instead of threatening my life my dad let me drink with him so long as I was willing to stay in for the night and hang out with him.  By the time I graduated college I was a square…got it all out of my system in high school.  How?  My parents’ trust.  I don’t think they trusted me to always make the right decision, but they trusted me to figure out how to get out of a situation and ask for help when I needed it.  If they didn’t hear from me they assumed things were fine…and things were fine.  So I’m just going to keep parenting my kids the way my parents did and the way my wife’s parents did, and instill trust in my kids.

There are more dangers in life now (so they may say)…or are we just hyper aware of them because of the internet, regulations of playgrounds, and less sandpits surrounded by fields?  I think kids need time alone.  They need time alone in their rooms to play, pretend, and read.  They need time alone in nature where they can swing a stick and run like the wind!  They need their own shelf in the refrigerator where they can get their own snacks and drinks.  They need their own privacy when and where they don’t feel like they are being watched…and they know when they are being watched.  They behave differently when they aren’t being watched.  They need secrets.  We have secrets…why shouldn’t they?  So don’t be shocked if Kate and I move out to the country one day…we’re just continuing our search for good dirt and the life decisions (and possible hazards) that come with it.

Max running across the meadow from the sound of the train.

Max running across the meadow from the sound of the train.

The Bartlett Arboretum. Max is somewhere out there.

The Bartlett Arboretum. Max is somewhere out there.

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Rewarding Good Behavior vs. Punishing Bad Behavior

31 Mar

2014-03-02 20.09.31My three-year-old (Max) is a pretty typical little guy for this age:  He questions everything in his world, asks “why” to anything you say, and we have a fair share of arguments that can lead to temper tantrums.  Kids are supposed to question everything because they are trying to figure everything out while testing their boundaries.  If you play the “why” game without reserves, things can get very existential for the parent in a hurry as things get broken down to the scientific molecular level.  What started with “Why is the sky blue?” can go from a simple explanation of daylight vs. sunlight, to how blue rays of the spectrum interact with our atmosphere, to the big bang theory.  Sometimes a simple, “Because” can go a long way.  However, if kids do not feel like they can explore their world and question their surroundings they get angry, moody, and throw tantrums.  Somewhere in between total exploration of their space and trying to control them to a T is parenting.  It’s all the grey in between.

With Max we were getting a lot of attitude, frustration, hitting, and meltdown temper tantrums.  We did some simple phrasing and practices to help empower him over the decisions in his life while still trying to maintain the schedule of the family unit which you can read about HERE.  It made a huge difference with the meltdowns but the arguing continued and got worse.  From what I can tell…this is all pretty normal 3-year-old stuff.  With that in mind my wife Kate and I are not seeking to “fix” this time period or avoid it…we are looking to make it easier for both Max and us by giving him tools he can use to figure things out on his own while continuing to test his (and our) boundaries.  What we figured out was we had plenty of things in place to scold bad behavior but not enough to reward good behavior.  What happens when you change the sentence, “Max, if you keep arguing you’ll get a timeout.” to, “Max, if you can stop arguing you’ll get a sticker.”  Both sentences address the behavior and have an outcome.  The first sentence is essentially bait for a 3-year-old exploring their surroundings, we literally say “keep arguing.”  The outcome is a timeout.  So now Max is inspired (or challenged) to push back even more to see how far he can go before getting a timeout.  The second sentence is clearer with a positive outcome.  It asks for him to “stop arguing.”  The outcome is a sticker.  Two sentences seeking the same goal…though one contains a challenge and a negative outcome (threat) while the other clearly states the request and offers a positive outcome of a reward.

With that idea of positive reinforcement for good behavior we modeled a chart like we had for potty training.  We never punished Max for not using the potty…we rewarded him when he did.  Why not the same for behavior?  It seems so simple but the key is consistency and getting the kids to buy in to it.  I created the “Good Behavior Max” chart and stuck it on the fridge where the heaviest kid foot-traffic exists.


It is so simple its stupid.  If he has an overall good day he gets a sticker at the end of the day before bed.  After 3 stickers he gets to pick a “special treat” such as a trip to the DQ for ice cream, the candy store, or an outing like the zoo.  Ice cream is the top contender…go figure.

20140330_170705The first few days Max did not earn a sticker.  He shouted at his teacher and threw a tantrum at nap-time.  FYI, getting your kid’s teachers, grandparents, sitters, etc. to be part of this is crucial…consistency is key.  Then…he finally had a “Good Behavior Day” on Friday.  It wasn’t perfect (never will be) but the positives heavily outweighed the negatives.  He was good at school, good at home, no big arguments, and he asked at dinner if he would get a sticker.  Without hesitation…the answer was, “yes.”  Saturday Max was a kid inspired and would catch himself having bad behavior and would self-correct it and say he wanted to behave well so he could get a sticker.  By Sunday he was a transformed boy and directly following his afternoon nap I made the decision to award the 3rd sticker thus declaring his behavior for the weekend “great!”

20140330_172726It was a 70 degree day so we took a family outing.  Max rode his red scooter, Kate and I pushed Dodge (1) in his stroller, and we walked a few blocks to Dairy Queen for Max’s first ice cream cone.  It was a monumental moment as a parent and I haven’t laughed so hard or smiled so big in a long time.  It wasn’t Max’s first time having ice cream…but it was his first soft serve, his first cone, and the realization that the DQ was walking distance made the sticker chart that much more powerful.  Max was VERY excited.  He chose chocolate and by his own decision gave a bite to his baby brother Dodge…who then followed him around like a baby duck quacking for more bites.  Max obliged and even shared bites with Kate and I.  It was a perfect Sunday afternoon.  Max sported a chocolate mustache as a badge of honor for his good behavior and let me tell you…he deserved it!  The look on his face was priceless.

20140330_172931The wrap up to this little story though is this:  I made the decision to give Max the sticker early and take him for ice cream at 5 PM when we still had dinner with the grandparents at 6 PM and the nighttime routine ahead.  Both are times when Max is most prone to melting down.  Lots of excitement and exhaustion.  I told myself I’d just let it all go in the spirit of the “Great Behavior Weekend” and understanding the kid was hopped up on sugar.  The result?  A great dinner without arguing and an easy nighttime routine.  So this begs the question:  Did Max behave better because he’s aspiring to get more ice cream from his sticker chart or because I lightened up?  Both.  All the positive reinforcement in the world for your kid isn’t worth a thing if they don’t feel like they are getting your approval.  Max felt comfortable to be himself at dinner and while there were times he got loud, argued a little, or got free of the table and ran free through the restaurant…he was happy, ate his dinner, and was kind to everyone.  What more can you ask from a little guy?

When we got home I put a fresh sticker chart up on the fridge and Max’s jaw dropped as if to say, “I have to do it again?!!!”  He looked at me and asked “Why are you putting up a new sticker chart Dada?”  I explained that he had achieved the goal and got his ice cream today…now it was time to work towards the next one.  I saw the rage build inside him as he prepared to throw his body on the floor and scream…then he exhaled and took a close look at the chart and counted the numbers out loud.  “1, 2, 3…then I can have ice cream again.”  “Yup,” I replied simply.  Max thought about this then said, “Next time…maybe I’ll get chocolate vanilla swirl!”  Nighttime routine went off without a hitch.

It wasn’t a “Good Behavior Weekend.”  It was a “GREAT Behavior Weekend!”



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