Saturday, June 18, 2011

Little succcesses

My middle child is at the ballet tonight, by herself. She went down to the box office this afternoon after dance class and bought herself a student rush ticket. Then she came home, sewed yet another pair of pointe shoes (she has four pairs to go), ate supper, took a shower, put on a dress, and got on the train to go see Coppelia.

How about that?! I spend so much time trying to get kids to be responsible that I'm almost struck dumb by this stellar display of maturity. What does one say when a kid actually takes initiative? I have to think about it.

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Big Guy had his 9th grade state-mandated math test on Thursday. He groused last weekend about how he was going to fail; he's one of those kids for whom the certainty of failing because he didn't try is better than the possibility of failing after putting in effort.

I emailed the social worker at school to say that if Big Guy could keep himself calm and put in good effort during the test, I would make him his favorite supper this weekend. I am happy to report that tonight we had a superb Spanish-style baked sausage dish, with fresh peach pie for dessert. Sometimes tossing on a little incentive tips the balance.

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My husband removed five bags of books from the house today. Only seven stacks remain on the living room floor. Andrew remarked, perkily, "Now I can start weeding through some more!" Which I think means that more books from the shelves will end up in the to-be-removed piles. I am considering posting an expiration date on any additions to the floor: Remove by [DATE]. But perhaps a better strategy would be to stop typing and go give my spouse a kiss to say thank you for doing what needed to be done.

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In Don't Shoot the Dog! (a wonderful book), Karen Pryor describes how they got Shamu to leap over that rope in the air. They started with the rope on the floor of the tank. Every time the whale swam over it, he got a reward. Eventually they raised the rope a bit, and then a bit more. Positive reinforcement is a key element in animal training. It often works for people, too. But so often when people we love do the right thing, we think Well, at last! instead of letting them know how pleased we are.

I rarely forget to show when I'm displeased. But life runs more smoothly when I remember to show when I'm pleased with what others do.

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking lately about the fact that every time the dog goes to the bathroom, he gets praised, and trying to translate that observation into more expressions of thanks to the people around me for the things they do.