Monday, April 22, 2013

“That’s Impossible!”

We use a Point Store as extra incentive for our son. Kai earns points for specified good behavior, which he can then exchange for items ‘on sale’ in the store.

We occasionally vary the achievements for which he can earn points, but currently the primary ways are through his behavior in school as measured by his school’s daily point sheet, and for going through the night without knocking on our bedroom door.

Sleeping has always been an issue for Kai. We still haven’t figured out how to get him to consistently sleep through the night, but we are trying to get him to be more independent when he wakes up. If he can keep from knocking on Mom and Dad’s bedroom door, he can earn 200 points.

We did start using a white noise machine after we got back from our Spring Break vacation. And along with the ear plugs, Kai does seem to be sleeping better. It’s not perfect, but the ‘sleep machine’ as we call it, seems to have a positive psychological effect on him, in addition to blocking out extraneous sounds.

This past week, though, we had some major storms in our area. And so Kai was more anxious than usual. The sleep machine blocked out most of the noise, but Kai still heard the thunder. He had a lot of difficulty sleeping and woke us up two nights in a row.

He had had his eye on a particular prize in our Point Store, and was hoping to earn enough points for it by the end of the week. But on Friday morning, he realized that because he woke us those two nights, he would fall ten points short, even if he scored in the 90s at school that day (which is very good for him).

He was not happy.

He begged Mom for a chance to earn an extra ten points. My wife agreed to think of something he could do.

I stepped in and said that we shouldn’t give him the extra points. My wife said that it wouldn’t be “giving” it to him; he would have to earn it. But I argued that creating a new goal just because he had fallen short on the original ones would be almost the same as giving it to him.

My son was not happy with that decision.

He said he really can’t sleep when it’s stormy.

We explained to him that he doesn’t he has to wake us up when he can’t sleep.

And besides, it’s not even about just that. He had other opportunities to earn points up until then. For instance, he could have a better day at school just a couple days earlier when a mediocre day cost him 100 points.

I told him that he could earn more points the next night if he did not knock on our door. He said that he would not be able to do it if it stormed.

In that case, he would have to wait until Monday to earn more points through his behavior at school.

He did not like the thought of waiting a whole three more days.

There actually was one other way he could earn the points that very day. I hadn’t mentioned it because I thought the chance of it occurring was very slim.

I told Kai that he would have more than enough points for his prize if he attained 100% on his school’s point sheet that day as we give a bonus for such a rare accomplishment.

“That’s impossible!” he declared.

In my heart, I thought that was probably true. But I couldn’t let him know that.

I told him that if he tried very hard, he could earn his 100%. Kai did not believe it.

“Dad, I am really mad at you!”

I then had to leave for work, leaving my wife to deal with a very upset boy.

I had quite a busy day at work, but I often thought of my wife and son and worried how the day was going for them. It is fine in theory for me to set a tough standard, but during the week, my wife is the one who is with Kai more often and has to deal with the consequences.

When I got home, I wondered what sort of mood everyone would be in.

My wife called out to Kai.

“Dad’s home. Come show him your point sheet.”


Kai didn’t come over. I walked over to the family room where he was engrossed in a new toy.

What’s this?

Kai started chattering what the toy was.

My wife called from the kitchen and again asked Kai to how me his point sheet.

He finally brought me over to the kitchen and showed me his point sheet.

“I got 100% today.”

And so he did.

Sometimes the impossible happens.


  1. How wonderful! Great news to start my Monday!
    So, so happy for Kai!


  2. Wow...that is just great! And...that is SO much better than giving him a chance to earn extra points because he was short. I agree with you 100% loose the incentive if he knows the rules can be relaxed if he doesn't behave. I certainly had incentive to get 100 points at school! That is wonderful!

    1. I was glad that it worked out so well this time. If he had fallen short, I imagine that it would have been a long evening. :)

  3. Don't you love it when you do the right thing...and a right thing happens :)

    Of course, I don't think Kai realizes it yet...but...he just set the bar at a higher point :)

    It is good Kai learned the most important lesson...that standards are not to be compromised. Only when parents teach their children this, will they realize that it is they who must adapt to the standards...and not the other way around. A child whose parents compromised standards lead the child to believe that everything is negotiable...with enough effort. This is what leads them to argue endlessly until they get their way. I have met some adults who still thought in this manner. They thought all they had to do was to raise the ante until the other person folded. All they could do when I did not fold, was to throw an "adult tantrum". It was a pitiful sight...because I knew the root cause.

    Only because you did not compromise the standard, did Kai raise himself up to the standard. Kudos to you.

    1. Shiroi, I really believe that Kai will be better off in the long run for being held to high standards. Sometimes it gets really tough dealing with his disappointment/whining/arguing when he falls short, but I think it would be worse if we gave in to that. Easier for me to say, though, when I get to go off to work and leave my wife to deal with everything. :)


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