Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Killer Cards

MOI, I so understand your confusion. It took me a minute, too, when Eldest explained it to me (I stole it from her school). So I thought I’d make a new thread about The Cards.

As melodramatic as it sounds, these stupid little shreds of bright-colored construction paper really did revolutionize our relationships around here. I did a lot more yelling, screaming, and irrational parental moves (accelerating straight from “now, honey-pie-sweety-love” to “GOTOYOURROOMFOREVERYOULITTLE!!!!!!”) before we went to the cards.

Here's what happens. The four cards are stacked, one on top of the other, in order: green, yellow, orange and red. They’re pinned up on the fridge in age/size order (Boo Bug’s cards are first in line AND smallest in size), where you can’t help but see them all day long.

When you sin against society, a card gets pulled. Green goes to yellow, yellow to orange and so forth.

For a long time, we had this deal where they got a quarter AND a treat for being at green. But I just recently (like, this week) began having two separate treat baskets, one for Green Card Holders and one for the Yellow ones. The ‘green’ basket has the more primo-treats: the sheets of stickers, the temporary tattoos, the $$money$$ (quarters) and larger candies (still not full sized bars, but Halloween candy-sized anyway).

If you, say, hit your sister or something, you'll get a card pulled. Then you've got a yellow card showing. You can pick something out of the regular old treat basket, which has stuff like Hershey’s kisses and single stickers. Still cool, but not cooooooooool.

Now, let's say you've already lost your green card and now (duh-nuh-nuh!) you decide that your sister just really needs a good hard whack with a shoe and damn the luck, mom saw you do it. Lost the yellow card and you're on to orange.

NO TREAT (wah!) and an immediate five minutes in "time out" (a.k.a., endless purgatory).

Now. If you're just really determined, you can go on to losing that orange card, which puts you at ‘red’. At that point, Flaming Death (a.k.a., "Go to your room This Very Instant") will descend upon you. You’ve proven yourself to be a danger to society, and will be removed from it for a time period not less than half an hour and probably Until I Call You For Dinner.

That's only happened once to us. It may be due to the fact that I have Mutant Alien Children™, but my kids have responded really, really well to the cards. I’ve actually seen them, just before performing some feat they know is going to get them busted, glance up at their cards to see where they stand.

The two younger ones are more than willing to exchange their green card for, say, jumping from the sofa to the rocking chair or attempting a Cookie Theft. But losing that yellow card and not being allowed a dip into the treat basket at Treat Time? Dear God! The horror!!!!!!

They are wonderful ‘visuals’. You can see at a glance what color card you have. They’re simple enough that my three year old gets it. And I have to say, I love the way it puts a kind of layer between myself and the discipline. Call it a copout, I don’t care. I love that I can point at the fridge at Treat Time and say “who has a green or yellow card?”

I also love the fact that I can stop most of their worst behavior simply by reminding them that, if they persist, they will lose a card. Quietly. Calmly. “If you don’t stop yelling and screaming in the doctor’s office, you will lose a card.” {silence} Aaaaaaaaaah. That’s better. No yelling. No screaming. No threats, no spankings public or private.

Amazing how a child too young to understand that mommy balling her hands into fists and turning bright purple is a bad thing, can yet somehow understand that (green OR yellow) = good, (orange OR red) != good.

Amazing how it keeps me in line, too. I might be tempted to cut a kid some slack, because after all, it isn’t fair that her siblings are getting treats, so maybe I’ll just overlook her horrid behavior this one time…

But not with an orange card glaring out from the fridge. Just like in Real Life, what you’ve done in the past follows after you, hindering or helping you by virtue of the choices you’ve made earlier. Good choices bring certain rewards, bad ones certain punishments.

Unlike Real Life, mommy resets the cards overnight, so that you start each day with a fresh, green card. Monday’s sins have no impact on Tuesday’s virtues.

If only, if only…


Very Herodotus said...

Do they ever get the yellow or green cards back if they are super good the rest of the day? Or, once it's gone, it's gone.

Killer system! I am stealing this for my own personal use, but I promise to give credit to Mother Chaos. 8^)

Mother of Chaos said...

VERY rarely, they'll get a card back - usually it's on appeal rather than by trying to do community service.

Overall, it's best if they're just gone. Otherwise, my kids (who unfortunately are not a bit stupid) will go ahead and be horrid on the assumption that they'll be able to get out of trouble by being Super Sharers later.

Myownigloo said...

Oh, I get it now! I had been picturing Old Maid when the more analogous picture is a traffic light with four lights. Great system!

Myownigloo said...

Just one more comment. You can count yourself among the rarified lucky parents for not having any color-blind children.


Stephanie said...

This is the system that my dad used back when he was teaching 5th grade (pre-1990). Except without the treats, just the lost recess time or whatever.

Um, and this is horrible, but all of the research that I have read about operant conditioning says that *intermittent* positive reinforcement yields the best results. (I'm awful. Terrible. Playing with the delicate psyches of children...) No, really, I wouldn't actually suggest it in real life.

mapletree7 said...

Intermittent meaning *sometimes* if you have a green card you get the extra good treat basket?

Stephanie said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that is how it is supposed to work. As in they never kow if they will get an extra special treat so they work for it all the time. (Um, like I said, sounds mean in real life. I'm basing this off of readings I did in college and that wasn't even in an official psych class. It was a compueters and persuasion class.)