Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I used to teach kindergarten.  Sometimes kindergartners don't want to sit still, or listen, or follow directions. (Do you know any kids like that?...maybe some of them live in your house.) And sometimes when I had reminded a particular child to do a certain thing seventy eight times I wondered if perhaps my voice sounded like Charlie Brown's mom...(you know his mom, right?  Well, she sounds like this..... wahp wahp wahp wahp wahp, waaaah wah wah waaah wah)  I have no idea what she was saying to Charlie Brown in all those episodes but I think that was the point.  Sometimes people just don't really want to hear lectures about what they are doing wrong.

Now, back to teaching kindergarten.  During my first year of teaching I discovered a magical technique.  This little strategy produced more obedient kids than eighty seven lectures combined.  It was so simple. Ready, here it is......... I praised the kids who were being obedient.  I know, it sounds unimpressive,  But, it was great.  It went like this:

Me: OK, I need everyone sitting still with their hands in their laps and mouths quiet

Kindergartens: (half of them obey, the other half flop on the floor, walk up to ask me a question, or otherwise completely ignore the fact that they are in a classroom)

Me:  Wow, look at Sara!  She is sitting so quietly with her hands still in her lap!

Sara beams and five other floppy kids look up from their position on the floor with interest

Me:  And look at Joey!  He's doing exactly what he should be right now.  He's still and quiet and ready to do the next fun thing.  Good job Joey.

Joey beams.  Now the really floppy kids are interested and start moving into the correct position.  They start looking at the kids who were being praised and trying to position themselves in that way.  Then, when they are all finally ready I say:

"Good, now Sara and Joey and Katie and Johnny and all of my kindergarters are ready and looking great."

It was almost unreal.  I could have asked those kids fourteen times to sit down and be still and it wouldn't have worked. But making obedience seem so special and praiseworthy got them where they needed to be in a few seconds.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think we need to praise kids for every little correct move that they  make.  But, there was some magic in recognizing the good behavior.  It made the obedient kids proud.  It gave the others a little motivation to do what they should...maybe they would get noticed too.

Well, to make a long story short, one night I was pondering what I could do to help my own child be more obedient.  Because I really don't like lecturing and telling them what NOT to do all day long.  Suddenly the thought came to me:

And frankly, just not enough time telling them what they do that is great. 

 They really are great and sometimes I am so worried about whether their rooms are clean or if they are sharing their toys that I forget to mention the good stuff.  I heard one time that you should say seven positive things for every negative in order to leave someone with an overall positive impression.  Do I say seven positive things to my kids for every negative?  I think not.

So, I decided to start a new family tradition....ACCOLADES (which pretty much just means compliments or praise).  It's a little jar with some slips of paper and a pen next to it.  The idea was that we would just write down the good that we saw in each other...the simple stuff.

Dad helped with dinner when mom was tired.

My daughter ran up the stairs and got a diaper for me for the baby.

My son told me how much he loved me.

My daughter told a joke that made us all laugh.

Once the accolade was written down (which took about ten seconds) it went into the jar until Sunday.  Then, on Sunday we would make some kind of treat together and sit down and read those accolades while we ate it.  The kids beamed.  Sometimes they wanted to keep every little slip of paper.  They looked forward to hearing the great things that we had noticed about them every week.  We encouraged the kids to write things down too.  And just to make sure that everyone was recognized I tried to write one or two things about each child before I went to bed every night.  It was sweet (maybe that had something to do with the desserts we were eating).  But it was also uplifting and happy and positive for those moments.  Everyone was important and no one was in trouble.  We all left feeling that way you do when someone gives you a genuine compliment.

We did this for quite a while and then we skipped one week, and then we skipped another, and soon we had forgotten all about it. But, I missed it.  And my kids missed it too. Sometimes they would ask when we could have accolades again.  It wasn't complicated.  It wasn't hard.  And, it produced good, happy, results.  So, we've decided to start up again.  One little jar, some slips of paper, and pen.  And I'm asking myself right now "What did my family do RIGHT today?"

What did your family do right today?


  1. It is amazing the way the positive things seem to spawn more positive and the same goes for negative.
    We do something similiar. We have a large chalkboard mounted on the pantry door and everyone has access to the chalk to write compliments about the other family members. We've even had guests help themselves to the chalk! It's been great because we can see what others have written about us and it seems to make us all try harder to do better. When the board is full, the compliments are recorded in the family journal and then erased from the board. We love it!
    And I love your blog! It's my newest favorite!

  2. Love that idea! I might try that out. I love the fact that everyone gets to look at it all week and that even visitors feel that they can take part. Thanks for the insight:)