Monday, February 18, 2008

Better to give than to take

Every Mommy has a little something different in their bag of tricks. We have to, after all, to stay ahead of the fray. One of my tricks is the "sorry gift" or "minutes". Let's face it--everyone hurts a loved one now and again. And when you have siblings, the now and again can come every few moments. So we moms need something in place to turn the tide.

I tend to use a lot of the same tricks that I used as a teacher with my kids--mostly because I know they worked and because I understand the psychology behind them. This one always managed to confuse students and then to strengthen bonds. In class, I called it simply "minutes."

If a student wrongs another--teasing, pulling out a chair, namecalling, etc.--typical teacher response is to punish the student that is committing the action. He took something from someone else so you take something from him. It is the "eye for an eye" mentality and is a method as old as time. It is also one that students expect. By high school, they know the punishment and commit the crime already willing to endure it (if they get caught). Early on in my teaching career, I flipped it on them. Instead of taking something away from the student, they had to give something to the student they wronged. They owed them "minutes". Perhaps 15 minutes to do flashcards or to study for a vocab quiz. Perhaps time to peer edit. Repeat offenders could end up owing lunchtime to cleaning a locker or teaching a new dance move.

Think I am crazy? You aren't the first, I promise. But it works. The students learn that if they torture someone, they will then "owe" him or her and they hate being in debt to another. And often, they would bond and realize that the person they were picking on was a real person--with feelings and intelligence. Sometimes the oddest of friendships grew from some minute requests. And I was always impressed by the things students chose.

At home, I do this with my kids. If Allie swipes Zack's outfit, she owes him 30 minutes. And he gets to choose what he has to do--anything from one of her chores to spending some special time with him. If Zack breaks one of her toys, he owes her. And if Mommy speaks crossly when she shouldn't or forgets something she promised to do, then mommy must pay up too. Works great with the hubby as well. Some of our best memories started with one owing the other some minutes. I had to learn to golf once. He had to plant roses. Giving and growing together.

So, friends, got tricks? I would love to hear all about them.


Leigh said...

Oh this is so great, Dora! I do a little something. I make mine spend time together until they can get along if they can't stop fighting. It's amazing how quickly they can be friends knowing they can't do anything else until they are! But I guess it's kind of a version of yours!

Jenn said...

I have no tips or tricks, but I am definitely putting this into play!