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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Tantrums, Not Sleeping, Migraines & New Shoes

27 Mar

Yesterday was the third day in a row Max (3) did not earn a good behavior sticker.  We’ve stopped trying to punish all the bad behavior since he’d be in permanent timeout due to the fact that he’s 3 and in full throws of the terrible tantrums and whatnot.  When Max has good behavior days he gets a sticker.  After 3 stickers I take him out for soft serve ice cream or the candy store or wherever he requests.  We are on par today for a sticker…TBD…still 2 hours left in his day…anything can happen.

Keep it together man.

Last night was the (I’ve lost track) night that Dodge (1) barely slept.  One night this week Kate gave up and brought him into bed with us and we all passed out.  He turned all the way around so his feet were in my face and then began stomping my nose as if it were a bass drum pedal.  Last night he just felt like screaming.  He is louder than my earplugs and sound machine.  The kid’s got some pipes I tell you what.  Its not his fault…he’s a baby, he has multiple teeth coming in, and he’s at that age where they go through serious separation anxiety.  Still…knowing all that doesn’t make it any easier at 3 AM when he’s screaming as loud as he can and you want to punch a hole in the wall.

Today is the second day of the migraine which began yesterday with visual auras and blank spots in my vision.  Always a good time.  When I get migraines it throws off the way I feel my body interacts with the world around me.  Sure…the splitting headache sucks and my stomach is all screwed up…but I have this overwhelming feeling like the air is too hot, things are closer than they appear, my appendages and brain are not communicating correctly, everything sounds funny, and I could swear there’s some dude in my peripheral just hunching over my shoulder.  Nope.  Just my peripheral is all off.  Claustrophobic.

So what’s the solution?  I bought shoes.  Boom.  Yes.  Vapid awesomeness.  Cost of shoes?  $21 including shipping.  Are they awesome?  I have no idea…I bought them online from JackThreads and they are blue.  All I know is I have a kid who hates everything, a kid who won’t sleep, a wife who hates me (we need sleep), I’m sleeptyping I’m so tired, I have a migraine, everything feels weird…and so I bought shoes online.

I don’t know if there is a moral to this story…wait…okay, let’s go with this:

“Eat more chocolate, buy cheap shoes, submerge yourself in water whenever you can, and somewhere…always…its happy hour.”


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Understanding Figurative & Literal Language For Kids

25 Mar

FrogAndToadAllYearEvery night I tuck my son Max (3-years old) into bed and ask him what two books or stories he wants to read.  There are many to choose from but one popular favorite is Frog and Toad All Year, in which Frog and Toad have adventures related to the different seasons of the year.  Max’s favorite story from this book is “The Corner” in which Frog’s father tells him “Spring is just around the corner.”  Frog then goes looking around corners to find Spring.  As Frog searches around corners in the woods and by the river he finds clues that winter is in fact ending until at last…he finds Spring when he comes around the corner of his house to see his mother and father working in the garden while the birds are chirping in the trees.  Max is fascinated by this story and struggles with the literal and figurative connotation of Spring being “around the corner.”  If you ever want to understand how many sayings we use in every day vernacular…hang out with a kid and listen to their questions.

Max:  “Why is Spring around the corner?

Me:  “It’s a saying, it means Spring is almost here.”

Max:  “Is it around the corner of Frog’s house?

Me:  “Spring is a season, so it is a time…not a place.”

Max:  “What’s time?

Me:  “Uhhhh…well…its what makes the clock work.”

Max:  “Like batteries?

Me:  “No, time is like…

Max:  “Like when Dusty Crophopper wins the race?

Me:  “Sure…like that.”

Max:  “So is Spring around the corner of our house?

Me:  “No, it’s an idiom.”

Max:  “Who an idiot?

Me:  “Let’s look for Spring around the corner of our house tomorrow.

Max:  “Okay Dada.  Dada?”

Me:  “Yeah Max?”

Max:  “It’s just a saying…okay…its just a saying.”

Me:  “Okay, thanks buddy.”

Max:  “You’re welcome Dada.

Max is good at clearing things like that up for me.  “What is time?”  I had no idea how to answer that one!  My instinct was to say “Time is relative Max,” but that opens up the discussion of Relativity, Einstein, and Worm Holes…and not the kind of holes worms dig in the dirt of our backyard.  A few months ago my wife Kate told him she was going to go “jump in the shower.”  Much to Max’s disappointment he walked into the bathroom and found Kate was just showering.  He asked, “Why aren’t you jumping?”  We explained that “jumping in the shower” meant “getting in the shower.”  Since then, that has been the gold standard in our house for explaining expressions, sayings, and idioms.

Me:  “Max, do you remember when Mommy said she was going to ‘jump in the shower?‘”

Max:  “Yeah…but that means she’s gonna take a shower.”

Me:  “Right.  It’s a saying.  Just like, ‘Spring is just around the corner.’”

Max:  “Yeah.  It’s just a saying.  Saying ‘Spring is just around the corner’ means Spring is almost here…just like how ‘jump in the shower’ means get in the shower.  You don’t jump in the shower…that would be silly

Me:  “Right.”

MaxShadesOfGreyI give Max a kiss goodnight, a few tickles, lots of hugs, a few more kisses, and then tip-toe to the door where I say the same thing every night:  “Night-night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, I’ll see you in my dreams tonight.”  Max rolls over and cuddles in for sleep.  He hasn’t asked me yet what a bedbug is.  “I love you Max,” I say.  Max replies, “I love you Dada.”  Then I slowly close the door behind me and say, “I’ll see you for breakfast.”  Instead of repeating this back to me like he normally does…he pursues the conversation a little further with one more question:

Max:  “Dada?”

Me:  “Yes Max?”

Max:  “Where did you take your dump?

This is a conversation for another time.  ‘Til then…it is time to go outside and start searching – Spring is just around the corner!

Dodge (1-year old) looks longingly outside as the days turn warmer.

Dodge (1-year old) looks longingly outside as the days turn warmer.

The 1st daffodils of the year bloom in the backyard.

Daffodils bloom in the backyard – Spring is just around the corner!

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From Label Whore to Polo Bore

19 Mar

YoungRyanThere was a time in my life when narcissistic sentences would erupt from my mouth like, “I don’t wait in lines.”  Or, “I don’t believe in black licorice.”  Or, “I only shop at Villains-Vault.”  While my hatred of waiting in lines during my 20′s and the taste of black licorice lead to many nights forcing my way into NYC nightclubs and not ordering Flaming Sambucas…I had to eventually stop shopping at Villains-Vault when I moved away from San Francisco.  Some of my favorite articles of clothing and accessories are from there like my handmade hoodie by Paul Frank himself, limited edition Vans, and of course my 1 of 500 white ceramic Nixon watch most people still identify me with.  I was a label whore.  I owned a black Armani suit that fit me perfectly and from that day forward I was convinced that Armani was the only label I would wear for suits…because…duh…it fits me perfectly.  Sunglasses?  Armani.  Jeans?  Armani.  Ties?  Yves Saint Laurent.  Shoes?  Vans.  Tee-Shirts?  RVCA.  Hats?  New Era fitted.  Dress shirts?  I picked out fabric and had them hand-tailored because my arms were so long and my neck and torso so skinny.  I was a 6’4″ 180 pound runway model turned actor, turned filmmaker, turned commercial producer, turned…

…turned into a 30-something father of 2 living in the Midwest with a closet full of stuff that doesn’t fit anymore and a spare tire around the waist.  Polos.  That’s whats in my closet.  Polos.  Lots of polos with logos of golf courses I’ve played like Bandon Dunes, Flint Hills National, and Royal County Down.  So many polos.  I must have over 100 polos in my closet right now.  On Friday my wife and I decided to go out on a date and I realized I barely had anything anymore that didn’t advertise a place I worked for or a place I’d been.  Friggin polos!  I’m wearing a polo right now with a logo on it!  Polos!

Young RyanI can remember sitting on the beach in Hermosa with a buddy about 10 years ago commenting on the odd things our older generation wore.  Powder blue shorts with knee-high socks!  Tie-dye.  Above-the-waist slacks.  I came to the realization that everyone hits a point in their fashion where they say, “This is it…I’m comfortable!”  From that point on they no longer buy new things, keep up with fashion trends, or evolve.  They just replace things in their closet’s inventory as needed.  It made me laugh to think that one day I’d be an old man wearing New Era hats, hoodies, Vans, chain wallets, and dark sunglasses.  Who would be the Wilford Brimley of our generation?  “Hi, this is Ryan Seacrest and I’ve got diabetes!”  Doesn’t sound right without that Wilford Brimley accent.  “Die-a-beet-iss.”

Sherpa DadThe truth is that as we get older we seek clothing that is more comfortable and stop caring so much about what we look like.  I’m married…who am I out to impress?  Seriously…nothing impressive going on here anymore.  Just a bunch of southern facing man breasts, a receding hairline, and a propensity to throw my back out if I stand up too fast.  I like to wear boot-cut jeans these days from Seven For All Mankind along with a pair of Eccos and an untucked polo.  That’s my jam.  After work I like to slide into a pair of basketball shorts and the loosest fitting tee shirt I can find that covers my crumpled paper looking stomach ripples of fat that appear when I lounge on the couch.  Kate and I call this look “fat pants.”  I rock it on the daily.

So as I stand in my closet looking for something to impress and only see labeled polos looking back at me…I find myself saying much less narcissistic things in my 30′s.  Now I say, “I think I’ll swing by Target and see if they have some polos without logos on them.  Maybe I’ll grab a bag of black licorice while I’m waiting in line to check out?”  Whoa!  Take it ease Rhino…take it ease.  The truth is I moved away from NYC, LA, and SF for a life in Wichita, KS.  Why?  Start with the first post on this site and read forward from there.  This is the 400th post and it felt appropriate to reflect back and recapture what So Long Freedom was all about in the beginning:

“So long sleeping in…

So long tennis shoes…

So long freedom.

My journey into fatherhood, corporate America, and responsibility.”

Ryan GlassesFunny that 400 posts ago in 2010 “So long tennis shoes…” was part of the plan for this ongoing article and made it into the tagline.  “Hello polos.”  (The polos say, “Hi.”)  If we still lived in NYC, LA, or SF I bet I would still be wearing RVCA shirts, New Era hats, chain wallets, Vans, and so on…and I’d look pretty funny to current day me in my slacks and polos…because people don’t dress like that here, not people my age.  Actually, most people my age here wear suits or are much less casual than I am and wish they could wear polos.  (The polos are chortling)  So maybe I have to amend my Hermosa Beach hypothesis and include geographic location into the fashion equation.  You wear what is comfortable and indigenous to your area.  For me…I guess that means polos by day and tee-shirts by night.  Maybe its time I switched things up a bit?  Maybe I should rock the short-sleeve button down shirt look?  Not the plaid “hipster” look…but the “guy in his 30′s who likes the sophistication of a button down but doesn’t like to feel sweaty so he wears short sleeves” look.  Yeah.  Maybe that’s my new jam!  Pretty sure Target carries that look.  Its time to reclaim my casual look!  I have great formal wear!  I don’t care what I look like when I’m lounging!  I need a new casual look!  (The polos are giving me the stink-eye)  Don’t make any sudden movements…the polos are getting restless and I think they might be forming an alliance with the khakis to start a rebellion.

Shhhhhhh!  Don’t make the khakis angry.

So…with my 300th post I encourage you to share this site with friends, subscribe if you haven’t already, and join me for 400 more posts:

“So long classic 20′s narcissism…

So long polo shirts…

So long…hmm…<blank>…hello future.

My journey into fatherhood, corporate America, and responsibility continues!”


Wearing what I want at the launch party of Harvester Arts (Co-founder)

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Sick Kid: Day 2

18 Mar

After Sunday night’s puking extravaganza my wife Kate and I were hopeful that our 3-year-old Max had just eaten something that didn’t agree with him.  He was fine all day, played like he normally would, ate, drank, etc.  I tucked him in last night and he asked for his puke-bowl just in case.  I obliged…but I didn’t think there was any reason he’d need it.  He went to sleep and was fine…till about 5 AM when again, he woke up in the act of throwing up.  Proudly, he got it all in the bowl this time saving us from another round of laundry.  What is going on?  He has no fever, he’s not acting sick, he feels fine all day, and then he pukes at night.  Every time it sounds like he catches himself chocking or coughing and then the gag reflex kicks in.  With a family history of reflux and Crohn’s, we’re keeping a close eye on him but he is fine by day – pukes by night.

Day Two of the Mystery Illness

Day Two of the Mystery Illness

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