Friday, November 20, 2015

Rae Pica Is in My Head

This summer I read and reflected on Rae Pica's book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? And I'm reflecting on it again as I participate in the book study with Early Childhood and Youth Development. So I guess it was inevitable: Rae Pica is in my head.

What I mean is that recently I hear about something and I think something like: "What? Why is that? Don't they know about child development?" And then I imagine "#AskingWhatIf" that appears with Rae Pica's tweets.

Here's something I heard that most recently triggered that response. A parent was talking about her preschool child's inability to get a sticker for being a good rester (behavior during rest time). Now, that's all I know. So my comments are not directed specifically at this situation, but are reflections on what I'm thinking. My comments are intended for broader consideration. (Okay, disclaimer over.)

First question that popped into my head: What are the expectations? What constitutes the appropriate behavior during rest time? Is the expectation that the child will go to sleep? Be still and quiet if not asleep? Staying in your own space even if moving? How is a "good rester" determined?

All preschoolers are not the same. Some need sleep in the middle of the day. (Heck, I need that sometimes.) Some have grown past that need. And that may vary from day to day, depending on how active things have been (or not been). So if the expectation is that every child will sleep, then most kids will fail on some days and some kids will fail every day. Hmm. Not really a fair expectation.

Remaining still and quiet even if not asleep? All preschoolers will probably fail that...and most adults I know will, too.

Second thought that hit me: These types of rewards are not very motivating. I recall what I've read from Ross W. Greene. Extrinsic rewards usually go to those who would do the behavior anyway and don't motivate others to change their behavior. (Rae's book addresses this, too.) This child obviously would like to get a sticker after rest time (and gets upset when he doesn't); but the promise of a sticker doesn't impact his behavior. Maybe he cannot meet the expectation (for whatever reason). Maybe the reward is too distant from the behavior to impact it. But overall, long-term, this reward system doesn't work.

Yes, I'm asking why and what if. I thought about these issues before. But now, Rae Pica is definitely in my head. And that's a good thing.

(If you haven't read Rae Pica's book, I recommend it.)

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