Over the past 10 years I have read so many books, articles and webpages on my journey to become a better parent. This has led me to have a great understanding of parenting; but also made me realize that there are so many different thoughts and opinions out there. I’ve learned to keep an open mind but look at things skeptically and use tidbits of each method that I felt best resonated with my parenting style and instincts.
Of all the things that I’ve used over the years, positive reinforcement (Kudo Banz) combined with a “reminder system” (1,2,3) has been the most effective combination.
A Real-life Example
At one point my youngest, Sofia, was learning to try new things at dinner without whining (a.k.a eating anything besides mac n’ cheese and not whining about why we’re not eating mac n’ cheese). I knew it was time to take out our Kudo Banz since it was becoming a challenge and really affecting the family dinner.
I told her our plan:
“You’ll earn Kudos for trying what mommy gives you for dinner and if you eat without whining you’ll get a Kudo.”
I knew this was something really hard for her and wanted to encourage her to learn the new behavior, so I added:
- “I’ll give you three reminders to help you remember what we are working on.”
- “I’ll say ‘ That’s a 1’ if you don’t try the food or if you whine about eating it.”
- “I’ll give you another reminder, ‘That’s a 2’ if you still don’t try the food or if you continue to whine about eating it”
- “and If I get to three, I’ll say ‘That’s a 3’, but this time you’ll loose out on earning your Kudo.
It was simple and easy for her to remember, and also something that she was familiar with. As parents one of the oldest tricks in our bag is the “counting to three” method. She was used to hearing me count to three to motivate her; for example to get her shoes on when it’s time to leave.
The first dinner was tough, she didn’t make it though without loosing her Kudo.
- “That’s a 1” I said when she whined about eating.
- “That’s a 2” I said when she whined again, this time louder and more dramatic.
- “That’s a 3, you didn’t earn a Kudo” I said after 10 minutes of giving her a solid chance and she still refused to try even the smallest of bites.
It was hard. I wanted her to succeed and she wanted to succeed, but her “three-nager” will power got the best of her. She still had to take a bite and lots of whining still ensued. She eventually ate three bites of her meal, but I didn’t give in. It was tough but it helped her understand the rules and made her understand that mommy meant business (getting nourishment into a child that you love and want to see grow up to be strong and healthy is so hard!). As upset as I was that it wasn’t successful, I knew she learned something important and was ready for day two.
The next day we tried again. Before we started, I reminded her about the rules. She was motivated and determined to be successful this time.
I set her plate in front of her like a manequin, with the straightest of faces. Grilled chicken, corn and cold pasta, (yikes.. something new!). I can’t say I wasn’t nervous! She took a look at the cold pasta and made a face.
- “What’s that?” she said.
- “Cold pasta, it’s like pasta without sauce” I said, as excited-yet-even-keeled as I possibly could sound.
- “Ohh.. I love cold pasta!” her brother piped in (bless his soul!)
- “OK, I’ll try it” she said. I secretly jumped up and down.
It was amazing, the dinner went as planned cold pasta and all. I had to remind her once, “That’s a 1” but it’s like she instantly remembered what happened yesterday, and was motivated to earn her Kudo. I caught a glimpse of her looking down at her band. She really wanted that Kudo so she could feel proud of her accomplishment. Her Kudo Banz plus the reminder system worked on this very difficult challenging moment- and it kickstarted her into a routine of eating and trying new things.
Why did it work?
It worked because the rules were simple and easy to follow. It only rewarded the positive behavior and we stuck to the rules we set together. It was hard not to give in. I had to let her know what not meeting her goal felt like, which is really hard as a mom to do but an important lesson. The power of failure is sometimes the best motivator for success.
Consistency is key
The key to success of the 1,2,3 reminder system is consistency. Kids need to know that 1 and 2 are warnings and that we always follow through on 3. Otherwise, they won’t be able to make the connection between the warnings and the action that follows, like missing out on earning their Kudo.
A few reminders
While it’s important to keep Kudo Banz positive, this doesn’t mean never saying “no” or giving Kudos when they aren’t earned. Lots of research has been done on the power of being allowed to make a mistake and learn from it. This is why it’s important that you allow your little one to feel what not earning a Kudo feels like. By telling your little one that they didn’t earn their Kudo and why, you are allowing them to make a mistake, understand and learn from it.
Saying “no” you didn’t earn your Kudo is different from taking a Kudo away. We never take earned Kudos away, because this contradicts the positive reinforcement that we are working towards since they were earned fair and square for prior good behavior.