Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Bump in the Road

My son’s string of safe days at school ended earlier this week.

Kai’s therapeutic school uses various types of positive reinforcement to try to encourage good behavior by their students. In one program, the teacher awards a star when she sees a student doing something that she wants to recognize. When the student fills his sheet with stars, he can turn it in for a small prize.

On Tuesday, Kai’s teacher started a new policy regarding the stars. Students were no longer permitted to ask for a star; the teacher would only reward one if the student did not ask.

I can certainly understand why she would do this. At home, Kai sometimes incessantly asks for something, and will not stop even after we let him know that we heard him and made it clear that it is not open for any further discussion. My guess is that he was just as persistently annoying at school, and probably was the primary reason for the new policy.

Kai was not happy about the change.

We heard that he got very angry. He displayed unsafe behavior, deliberately peeing on the bathroom floor, among other things.

When I got home from work that evening, he got angry when I asked him about what happened at school.

Part of his anger was over the new policy, but I think that some was due to his frustration over again failing to achieve the “Safe Month” award at school.

“It’s too hard!” he kept saying, referring to his ability to stay safe for an entire month.

I tried to encourage him that he had stayed safe all month until this day. He could achieve the award next month if he could put aside his anger.

Kai was not optimistic, and his concern not turned to the booster pack of Pokémon cards I had promised him if he had stayed safe at school all month.

“Make it easier!”

I don’t want to get in the habit of changing the criteria for a reward every time he does not achieve it.

But, in this case, he had had a great month up to now and I didn’t want to discourage him from trying to get back on track.

I told him that I would give him a mulligan for this one incident. If he stayed safe the rest of the month, I would give him the Pokémon cards. But he had to accept the new policy. I did not want him to complain about not being able to ask for stars. And, he could not say inappropriately mean things about his teacher anymore.

The next day, he had a great day at school. I was relieved to see that his anger did not carry over. And then he had two more great days after that.

In the past, something like this would linger on for days or weeks. This time it was just a bump in the road.

Progress. Yes, progress.


  1. Well, good for Kai...yes, just a bump in the road and not a sink hole! :) I hope the rest of the month is smooth going!

    1. We've hit plenty of sink holes before so it was nice that he recovered so quickly this time. Thanks, Betsy!

  2. Bumps in the road are progress and growth. Perfection does NOT exist even for us "NT" people....

    1. Jane, that is a great way of looking at it!

  3. Bumps are means you are at least moving forward. Something new to conquer is a future gain. Congratulations on the "mulligan". By the context I is the first time I had heard that term. It must be a Chicago thing :)

    1. Haha, I am familiar with "mulligan" in the context of golf... in a friendly game, one player may grant another a mulligan if that player hit a bad shot. The player granted the mulligan may re-hit a ball from the original spot. I believe it is a universal term, though it does sound like a Chicago thing. I am guessing you don't play golf. :) (I hardly play myself).

  4. I know it is a tough call but I think a whole month is a really long time and I think your mulligan decision was a wise one!! The minute we move the carrot and make the goal seemed unattainable, my son is quickly discouraged! We continue to work on this slowly.

    1. Kelly, Kai just completed the rest of the month safely so he earned his reward and was really happy. I praised him for how well he did, and told him that he could achieve it again next month, without the mulligan! I think if I had not granted the mulligan, he would have been discouraged.


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