Rock Jars

In an attempt to further answer the age old question, "Is it sensory or is it behavior" I have devised a new behavior modification 'game'.

(evil laughter)

The game is very simple. You start with a Jar of Rocks, in your own color (black is Gabriel, yellowish/brown is Matt and the reddish/brown is Nick). For each time you break an existing rule, which have been predetermined by our family, written down and posted, you lose a rock from your jar. If you have any rocks left at the end of the period (5 day school week, and reset for weekends when they are home more), you earn a privilege: things like 'choose breakfast', 'choose family movie', 'choose a game to play', 'pick the playground', etc. Then we reset, and return all of the rocks to their jar.

Do I think this basic of all basic "star chart" type reward systems will work? Yes and no.

I believe it will be helpful for Matt, successful for Nick and a toss up for Gabriel.

I thought about doing many other options including the Wheel of Dreaded Consequences, which was quickly ruled out, star charts, point systems (which worked wonders for Nick'sreading success over the summer), and more, but thought the newness of this would be an added bonus--for the kids and for me.

Rocks were also a good choice for these reasons:

1. Sensory Friendly: Visual, tactile, heavy
2. It is easy to see how you are doing; no counting necessary
3. Reusable and Inexpensive (a one time cost of $4.50/jar to buy new at Michael's)

Now the obvious truth here is that no matter how well I use this system, it isn't going to answer the question "is it behavior or is it sensory" entirely.

But it is going to give me some clues as to what Gabriel has the ability to control (will he stop calling me a "dumbass" daily?) and what he can't.

The reality is that Gabe is easily motivated. I feel like I take advantage of that sometimes by giving too many 'threats': Stop or I'll...whatever. Not my favorite way of parenting and parenting a kid like mine is hard. I want to feel good at the end of the day that I did my best, and I am not feeling that way lately. I hope this Rock System eliminates the need for threats and constant reprimand. I can just say, "You lost a rock for that."

When we purchased our rocks and jars yesterday, as a group (all three kiddos and me) they enjoyed choosing which rocks were theirs and looking at all of the jars (never mind the panic attack I suffered having all three of them in an aisle dedicated to glass jars).

The challenge was that the rocks were sold by weight; not number of stones.

When we got home, and set up our little area on the counter, I started counting rocks into jars.

Nick has 10 rocks (one wouldn't fit)
Matt has 13 rocks
Gabe has 14 rocks

Nick didn't find this to be fair.

"Nick, how many times a day do you flip out?" I asked him.

"Ah, virtually none." He said with a smirk.

"What about Gabriel? How many times a day does he flip out?" I said.

"A LOT." He said.

"OK, then we see that Gabriel is going to need more chances than you are." I concluded.

"Yeah, I think so." Nick said.

And that was it -- the gods have spoken on how many chances each child gets. It is fair -- which is NOT to be confused with equal.

Example of Gabriel's Reasons to Lose a Rock:

1. Calling names
2. Hitting, biting, kicking
3. Throwing things
4. Breaking things

Example of Nick's Reasons to Lose a Rock:

1. Not following directions (ie "get your shoes on" or "clear your plate")
2. Ignoring me when I speak (this drives me crazy)

Example of Matt's Reasons to Lose a Rock:

1. Spitting
2. Throwing things
3. Spilling things intentionally (books, toys, drinks, popcorn, etc.)

The boys all have something to work on. Come to think of it, maybe I should get myself a jar too...*sigh*

I am hoping that this will be motivating for all of them and give me the motivation to be more consistent. I have successfully motivated Nick this way for years (the previous mentioned reading chart--more points for higher level books earned him a backpack of his choice this summer, as well as a "stay in bed" chart that earned him $40 over 6 weeks, all have worked wonders) but Gabe's behavior isn't as easily modified. And Matt...well...let's just say it is time to take a more 'formal' approach to his behavior modification.

I will keep you posted, but until then, I am truly happy with the aesthetic value of the Rock Jars on my counter. Is that weird?



Stacey,momof 2 said...

When I read the line about being at Michael's with 3 boys in an asle full of glass jars I laughed so hard I almost got the hiccups! :)
I like this idea -- although my son has a huge issue with everything being fair-- so I might have to think about how I can make that work -- My daughter isn't a child that needs very much direction--

hummm... Thanks for giving me something to ponder on!

Caeseria said...

I will have to come up with some equivalent of this - though I don't know that mine is old enough, at three, to look that far in advance. Maybe a jar/container/whatever for each DAY. And I have no idea what sort of reward could be provided for each day.
It's a great idea though!! Hopefully I can come up with some version that would work for us! Gotta have something!

Heather B said...

I'm excited to see how this works out for you! We've started social stories with my son to work on some of those more difficult tasks but still need something to address the everyday things. I may borrow from you to try it for myself:) If I do, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Natalie said...

Good luck. I look forward to hearing how it works.

Caitlin Wray said...

Looking forward to seeing the results of your evil experiment!

PS. I was immediately drawn to the aesthetic value of your jars (I'm serious), not to mention their aesthetic compatability with your granite countertop. That either makes you very weird or totally normal, depending on what you think I am ;)

Sasha said...

We've got a visit w/ our behavior therapist today to discuss whether Will's behaviors are SPD related or strictly behavioral. I love your rock idea and may incorporate that into our plan.

Kath said...

Ah, yes, it's the question at the heart of most of our parenting arguments: Is it sensory/Asperger's or is it behavior? I, too, grow weary of making the "threats" that just don't work, with either child.

Looking forward to hearing how your rock system works. Thanks for sharing!

Hartley said...

Stacey: My boys are big on "fair" too, but we talk a lot about the fact that fair means everyone gets what they need--NOT everyone gets the same thing. We use this a lot as to why one gets OT, one gets to play football, another has a play date, etc. Things are never equal. :)

Casseria: At three a reward more often is better--even every hour!

Heather: Social stories are great, we use them too, but they take time (and opportunities to practice).

Natalie: I think I need all the luck I can get!

Caitlin: I am SO glad you like the aesthetic value of the jars...yet isn't your blog named "Welcome to Normal: Population 0"? LOL

Sasha: I try to live by the words, "if they could do better they would." Usually Gabe is flipping out because he can't cope. I am hoping the jar gives him incentive to practice his coping skills--if he sees that he can delay a flip out, then maybe he'll use that skill in other areas of his life.

Kath: It is amazing how easily I can say, "Oh that is because of X" but really, is it EVERY time? I mean sometimes isn't he jumping off the couch just because he is an 8 year old boy? You gotta figure the answer is yes! :)

Thanks everyone!!

Em Ybarra said...

hi! i am new to your blog. i just found out that my 2 1/2 year old has SPD. I have been actually enjoying understanding him and SPD and am really interested in your book since i am a bit apprehensive about starting school. i will send you my e-mail address on facebook so you can tell me where and how i can get your book! thanks! -emily ybarra (facebook: DavEm Ybarra)

Anonymous said...

We don't use rocks, but we do use poker chips for the same kinds of things. Whatever works!