Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Marshmallow Rules

It's the same thing everyday. The kids come home from school, I have a little snack waiting for them, and then it's time to do their homework. Kamy and Keaton go right to the table, with their folders, books, and papers, and they get right to work without a word of complaint.

Then there is Kolby. The moment "homework" is spoken, the fit starts. Shoulders start to shake, hands flail out, legs start bouncing, feet go berserk, head flops back, mouth hangs open, and out comes the most pathetic and annoying wails which proclaim the unjustness of his life.

And ya know what? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of how he reacts to reading books with me, practicing his flashcards, writing down spelling words, and every other tiny little thing he has to do for homework. Sick Sick Sick!

With Kolby, nothing gets his attention better than sugar. You mention that word, and his face lights up, his eyes get bigger, his mouth salivates in anticipation, and he is suddenly the most well behaved little boy.

So what's a mom to do? She resorts to bribery. In the middle of his homework fit, I say: "Hey Kolby, if you write your spelling words, I'll give you a mini marshmallow for every word you write." (Kolby's eyebrows perk up.) "It says in your directions that you need to write them three times each. I will write the first set, and next to that, you write the word two more times."

Cleverly adding a little math to the negotiation, I tell him that he has 10 spelling words, and if he writes each word one time, how many mini marshmallows will he get? He immediately replies that he will get 10, and basks in the vision of marshmallows dancing around him. Then I tell him that if he writes the words two times each, he will get double the marshmallows, and ask him how many he would have. He thinks for a second, then yells in delight that he will get 20 marshmallows!! He giggles in delight and is positively sure that he has just outsmarted his mom into willingly giving him sugar.

The only catch is that he must write the words very well. If he doesn't succeed, he won't get his treat. So, with enthusiasm that in the past has never accompanied spelling homework, he sets to work.

As each word is completed, he yells out the total of marshmallows he is up to. "Twelve marshmallows! Ha Ha!!!"

At the end, he succeeded in writing his spelling words better than I've ever seen him write before. One thing that Kolby likes to do, is dress up his letters with a little curly Q at the end. His "h" and "n" letters get the most flamboyant of a curl.

So he wrote his ten spelling words two times each, and then he got to count out his 20 mini marshmallows.

He was very proud of himself. And I've got to tell ya, so was I. We didn't finish his other homework, because he took so long perfecting his spelling words, but I feel that the day was an accomplishment...thanks to the magic of a mini marshmallow; or in this case, 20.


Cheryl said...

Okay, I don't know how old Kolby is, but he'll be very happy to know that he has a twin living here in Canada. My Ryan is 8 years old, and can not stand homework. I hate to admit it but I think to a certain extent they have a point. If they do a proper amount of work in school, it's not a lot different than if my husband would bring his job home in a brief case, and continue working from home ! Anyway, glad your method worked, I'll have to try it, as his "twin" also shares his passion for sugar ! I enjoy your blog, XOXO to the beautiful baby too !

Nancy said...

I have a 4 year old son who will be starting Kindergarten next year and I have a feeling he's not going to want to do his homework because when I sit him at the table now to work on letters, numbers, and writing he gives me this look like I'm out of my mind. He too LOVES sugar. Recently I've been working on counting with him. He's up to 15 and gets the same amount of M&Ms for whatever number he counts to. I've never bribed...not even with potty training...He's excited about counting though and that puts a smile on my face :)

purejoy said...

i can't imagine how much you must have dreaded after school and all the drama that brings… a mom has to do what she can to inspire learning. . . your next goal i'm sure will be to get him to perform with a more delayed gratification. but i have to be honest with you. . . i will do just about anything for an m&m. wonder how much i could get done in a day if i had someone like you rewarding me!!

great solution, and i think it's sparking a newfound excitement for kolby. what an exciting discovery!!

Maynards said...

Good one! It is amazing what those mini marshmallows can accomplish. For us..they help with potty training.

Jen Sue Wild said...

LOL He is so much like Garrett.
Treats are Garrett's bribe as well if I want any thing extra done in the house all I have to do is break out the sweets and say if you do this you will get this and if you do an extra good job you get a bonus one.

My Bath rooms will be shiny clean for a mere 3 miniature candy bars or a pack of gum..

Colleen said...

Great idea! It's nice to know you've found something that does the trick! Treats often do the job around here too.

Our general rule was that homework was done first after getting home, but recently (since Ben started getting first grade homework instead of the easier Kindergarten stuff, and who needs it more than Zach), on days I feel like I am fighting them to get the homework done, I have started (afternoon/evening schedule permitting) letting them go play for 30-45 minutes first. I think sometimes boys need to get out some energy after sitting in school all day before they sit some more for homework. The deal is that once it is time to sit for homework they just sit and get to it, or next time they will have to immediately start homework instead of having play time first. And it has to be an activity that gets them moving so they can get the wiggles out.

courtney said...

I'm using smarties to get kenzie to tell me sounds and names of letters of the alphabet. She has a test on friday to see how many she can do in a minute and I want her to do really well. Sometimes we all need a little motivation to do something we don't want to do.

steffany said...

I have triplets who DESPISED reading lists when they were in kindergarten.

10 words x 5 times each x 3 grumpy kids x 5 days a week= a very grumpy mom who began to hate reading lists as much (or maybe more) than they did.

Nicki said...

Maybe some day he'll grow up to be as smart as his mom:)! I love that boy--he sounds like one I've got around here:). Those tag monsters are super cute. Did I tell you I'm in a quilting class. . .I just need to stop being intimidated by the sewing machine!

Me and My Girls said...

Kolby always seems to have a mischevious look on his face, like he has something up his sleave. I love how excited he was to get the marshmellows. I wonder what I will have to look forward to with my girls. Hey I need a reward for myslef for getting my homework done too, hummm I wonder what that should be.

Elise said...

We do the same thing with Kate to practice her sight words or when she was learning to write her letters - a penny a letter or word. Works magic. And I think whatever works, you do.

Good job with throwing in the math too.

Jen said...

I'm with Colleen. Whenever possible my first grader get to run, play and do whatever she wants for an hour or two before doing chores or homework. After sitting at a desk all day at school it does wonders for her spirit, especially if the sun is out.