Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Fulfillment Project Goes Crazy for Candy
"I think I'm going to opt of this plan," said my daughter. "It doesn't sound like much fun."
"Yeah," said my son, which is his standard conversational tactic whenever he and his sister are arguing with me about something.
"It's not a corporate takeover. You don't get to opt-out or opt-in. I'm not asking your permission, I'm just making sure you understand the rules."
"Like a game?" asked my daughter.
"However you want to frame it," I told her.
Each child has their touchy spots. Child #1's is homework.
She's a classic first born kid, in that she's a perfectionist, competitive and a little high strung. These traits aren't pretty when they come to homework. A typical evening can go something like this: She screams for help. I attempt to calmly explain. She falls off the chair and writhes under the table. I walk away. She begs me to come back. I deny her request. She starts sobbing. I take pity on her and try to explain. She tells me I don't know what I'm talking about. I yell at her. She listens for the fraction of a second it takes me to explain her homework and then insists, "I get it. I get it. Don't help me anymore."
Given this pattern, I knew homework might be a time when check marks would mount up in a hurry. It was a Tuesday night and she was supposed to be calculating area and perimeter.
"Mooom, it's impossible," I heard her moan from the breakfast room.
"Need some help, honey?"
"Yes, but it's impossible!!" I sat down next to her but before I'd said two words she shrieked, "How could our teacher ask us to do something like this? It can't be done."
"Uh-oh, that's a check mark for not listening," I said.
She glared at me. Things went downhill from there. In the space of a minute we had gone through the dessert check marks and were into her personal stash of candy. "Not the box of chocolates Grandma and Grandpa brought me from Peru," she shrieked as I marched upstairs. I left the Peruvian chocolates alone and grabbed the two year old tin of malt balls from Dylan's Candy Bar. After I'd ground one up in the garbage disposal I went back into the breakfast room where she was sprawled on the floor.
"It doesn't seem like you're ready to listen yet," I said.
She threw her pencil at me.
I ground up another piece of candy and returned to the breakfast room. This time she was in her chair, hair wild and a little tearful. Through clenched teeth she said, "Okay mom, I'm ready to listen."
Turns out the concepts of area and perimeter are pretty easy. She whipped through her homework in about five minutes. That night before she went to bed she said, "Mom, I think time outs are a lot better than check marks. You know, we need time to think about our actions."
That was the moment I knew I was really on to something.
On Monday, The Fulfillment Project looks at the effect of the candy check mark system on a completely different kind of kid, the one who goes by the name (on this blog) of Child #2.