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That Time I Didn't Fail...

My kindergartener is a little like her mommy. Before school started, my husband and I agreed that we wouldn’t come down on her too hard when she got in trouble for talking. We knew it wasn’t an “if” but a “when.”

Eliana’s a bright, energetic child. Before she started going to kindergarten for 9 hours a day (2 hours on the bus), it seemed like nothing could ever cause her to run out of energy. Nothing could quiet her constantly moving mouth either. If she didn’t have actual words, she just used her high-pitched voice to sing-song nonsense. We knew this would make for an interesting first year in the classroom.

Enter the color system… In K5, each student has a color wheel indicating their behavior. Each day they begin on green. If they behave exceptionally, the clip on their wheel can move to blue, purple, or pink. Pink is the best. However, if they need correction, their clip can be moved to yellow (warning), orange (consequence like missing recess), or red (principal’s office and a call home).

Eliana’s academic progress is good, but she’s been coming home with a lot of “yellow” for talking at inappropriate times. So what do we do? The teacher is handling it at school and letting us know. I came from a family that said, “If you get in trouble at school, you’re in trouble at home.” But when I was in school, every little behavior didn’t get reported. I actually got spanked in front of the entire class in kindergarten and I’m pretty sure no one ever told my parents.

Because talking at inappropriate times means she’s disobeying her teacher, we need handle it. I started researching and tried everything we could think to try. We made her write an apology note to her teacher, took away privileges, and on a particularly bad week when it looked like she was going to become “that kid”, I even spanked her. Then I cried. Come ON, kid! Just close your mouth!

Last week I thought of something I hadn’t tried. I told her that if she stayed on green or higher all week, she would get a reward at the end of the week. Rick’s eyebrows shot up in alarm. I could just hear his concern, “How much is THAT going to cost?!” I had no idea what the reward would be, but she perked right up. A reward! It was the subject of conversation all week as she came home on green each day.

On Friday morning I ran into the grocery store to pick up some applesauce pouches for Charlie. (He takes it very personally when we run out.) In line at the checkout, I saw this cute little package of “gourmet gum” with a rainbow unicorn on the front. This rainbow unicorn thing is as much the rage right now as it was when I was a kid. I picked one up and looked around. Nearby was a “My Little Pony” (also very popular when I was little) box that contained a small chocolate egg and a plastic eggs with a miniature pony toy. What eggs have to do with ponies is beyond me, but okay…

A $3 reward that’s likely to totally delight my daughter? YASSSSS!!!! I giggled as I put them on the conveyor belt.

Then another thought crossed my mind.

Precious little Charlie has been in preschool for as long as Eliana has been in kindergarten, and not once has he had a behavior issue.

Charlie likes to talk too, but he’s quiet when the teacher tells him it’s time. He plays nicely with the other children. He does his projects correctly. What reward has he ever gotten?

I’ve been Eliana, and I’ve been Charlie. I don’t want to overlook either. And at this age, Charlie just wants to be like his sister. I picked up another pack of gum, them I looked back at the eggs. Charlie really isn’t interested in My Little Pony. But right beside it was Peppa Pig. Ah, yes…

When Eliana came home and reported that she was on green again – 10 days in a row – I happily went to my stash and pulled out both sets of rewards. I gave Eliana hers first, with a big hug and happy dance.

Charlie was really happy for her, but then I showed him his reward and explained why he got one too. His smile was so warm and confident. He knew he deserved it.

For the first time in a while, I didn’t feel like I failed him.

The two of them were delighted with their little surprises. I was happy with myself for finding something ahead of time that made everyone, including Rick, so happy. Then I spent the next 30 minutes getting them to move their papers and tiny pieces off surfaces where the baby could reach them. He’s suddenly able to pull himself up on the couch and nothing is safe!

These children bring me such joy, but I’ve never known such daily defeat either. A positive moment deserves a little appreciation. I want to remind myself that sometimes I get it right. Sometimes.

Hopefully this is the thing they’ll remember, and not that one time that I made Charlie wear socks that were three sizes too small…

To those of you who understand how it feels to struggle to get it right, I encourage you to pat yourself on the back when you do. Soak up the moment and enjoy it. Your kids will remember that their mommy was happy and once let them eat chocolate eggs right before dinner.

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