We may have experienced a minor breakthrough.
Being a five-year-old boy, our son likes to play when he should be doing work in school. Throughout autumn, he got better at focusing on his work, mostly through the skilled guidance of his teacher, but also with our encouragement.
Then Christmas break hit, followed by a parade of snow days. The routine of school became hodge-podge. His attention to school responsibilities regressed. We started getting disappointing reports from his teacher.
He lost privileges at home. This got his attention, but it wasn’t so good at holding it when he was in school.
There’s a color chart in his class. Everybody starts on green. With good behavior, kids can be promoted to orange, then blue, and finally purple – the pinnacle conscientious pupil-hood. Behaving poorly can sink them through yellow into red.
Our son took a few tastes of red. Friends suggested that maybe he was bored in school. Okay, bored is an excuse when you’re a super-genius whose talents lie three grades ahead. Bored is not an excuse because school work is more boring than play. He’s a bright kid, but I believe a super-genius would have mastered telling time by now.
One day we found an add-on to his train set on clearance at the store. At 75% off, we couldn’t pass it up, but we lacked an occasion for him to get it. We made a deal. If he stayed on orange for a whole week, he could have it. If not, I’d return it to the store.
75% off! Like I was going to return that? So some other parent could bag that deal? I’d keep that thing in the basement until he was 50, if it took that long to earn it. But he didn’t know that.
The next day he jumped to orange, and brought home a golden ticket. His mom and I gave him high fives and did celebratory dances. The next two days brought more orange, high fives, hugs, and dancing. Best of all were his proud smiles.
On the fourth day, he slipped back to green. I’m sure it was all a misunderstanding, but what was done was done. I said I’d give him another chance. If he made it to purple one time, he could have the train.
Funny thing though, he didn’t seem so concerned with the train. He seemed more interested in making his parents proud.
The next week, he fluctuated between orange and green. Then, one day, I was greeted with the news that he’d reached blue. There was much rejoicing. He didn’t mention the train.
The next day, as I hugged him goodbye in the morning, he asked, “What would you do if I got on purple today?”
“I’d be so happy that my head would just about blow up.”
He laughed. I think he’s close. There’s a train at stake. But most of all, it’s a chance to blow up his dad’s head with pride.
Awe, he’s a good boy. My 2 y/o would love that train set though, so if you’re returning it anyway??
Are these kids being judged daily? Like can you be red for four days and then suddenly be purple on Friday? And why is purple the best color option? Purple sucks. Maybe a kid likes a certain color the best so he or she chooses to stay at that level of behavior no matter what? Maybe there should be a food chart system where Cauliflower is the new Red and Candy the new purple? Oh, that’s good. Let’s market this!
Where would brussel sprouts fall on your chart? Just curious as I understand you either love them or hate them. I personally love them so there’s that. I could throw off your whole system with brussel sprouts!
Brussels sprouts would certainly be a hurdle for my entire family. We’d all be sent to the principal’s office.
Geez, Don. You make it sound so complicated. I’m just trying to get the kid to pay attention in school. But if I could get him to eat cauliflower too, now that’d be a real trick. And I don’t know who picked purple for the top. I wouldn’t have picked it, but that’s all violet water under the bridge now.
I get that the teacher is trying to give the kids an education in how they conduct themselves but COME ON….he’s 5!!! I am pretty sure my day vacillated between yellow & purple yesterday. I went to bed early, on my own accord! If he doesn’t achieve purple status, I am sure his future spouse would receive much enjoyment out of the train!
To my knowledge, no one gets punished for moving down. I think it’s more of a way for them to see how their behavior looks relative to the group, and I think they are old enough to build that self-awareness. As for you, young lady, I’m very pleased that you went to bed without a fuss. Between you and my son, that makes one of you.
Awwhhh so sweet! The 75% off price tag…oh and the story too. 😉
Yeah, it’s hard to top a 75% off sticker with mere words.
I think the train would make a perfect wedding gift!
I have no doubt that’s exactly how his spouse will feel. I just hope someone gives them batteries.
So if this is your last post can we assume it is because your son has been particularly good and your head is plastered all over the kitchen?
Yup. If you don’t hear from me again it means I’m a new pattern on the wall paper.
Here’s hoping he blows your mind. 🙂
There’s always hope.
Parenting is all about providing the right motivation. Or threat. You’ll use the latter more often as they get older, because for some reason my 13.5 year old son doesn’t get excited about a train set anymore. He would probably love to see my head blown up though…
I bet train sets are not nearly as exciting to him as 13 year-old girls are. Too bad for you.
Yes and where can you find good models of those? On sale? Maybe I shouldn’t ask…
I don’t think you want the ones that are on sale.
I’ve resorted to food bribery a few times with my students, but I love it when parents tell me that their child wants to work in order to impress me. Doesn’t get any better than that.
And there’s probably nothing better to them than when they see you impressed by their work.
So I gotta know, you wrote this on the 27th. He’s officially purple now right?
We’re still working at it. As I understand the system, they get reset to green at the beginning of the week, so you have to work all week toward purple. Being on your best behavior for a whole week is hard – my boss will back me up on that.
Starting at zero every week is ridiculous. I see parent teacher conference in order.
Yes, it makes it more difficult for him, but it would be nice if he could prove to himself that he can do difficult things.