So You Want Your Kid To Be Nice?

niceYesterday I was in a grocery store and I asked my son to put the groceries in the truck will I visited with a woman I hadn’t seen in a long time.

He said, “Yes ma’am” and rolled away with the buggy full of food.

The lady behind us, in line said, “Good Lord how do you get your kid to act like that?”

She was serious.  I actually get this question quite a bit.  It’s not that I’m some magical mom, my kids are not saints.  But I did do something with them starting about age three.  A long time ago I implemented the “yes for a yes” program.  At a very young age I  explained to all of them that the more they say yes when asked to do things, the more I would say yes when they asked for something. As soon as they said “no” to me or whined about doing a chore… I stopped saying yes to fun stuff. And I kept on saying, “it’s a yes for a yes,” until they were brain washed.

Early examples: “Mom, can I have ice cream?” “Sure you can, if you make your bed.”

“Mom, can Sam come over?”  “Sure, if you’ll rake the leaves for me. It’s a yes for a yes”

“Mom, can I have some gas money?” “Sure, if you’ll give me 45 minutes for a game of Apples to Apples with your little sister. It’s a yes for a yes”

The key is you never have to raise your voice or sound mean. it’s always friendly,even when they start testing the limits. “Mom, can we go pick up James to spend the night?” “Sure, if you rake the leaves for me.”  “But I did that already this week.” “I know, but it’s Fall, there are new leaves. It’s your call. Yes for a yes.”

It takes a while but kids are smart and they are opportunists.  They figure the system out pretty quickly.

By the time the kids are 8 or 9 they fully understand the system. Even their friends get it. So they say yes to me all the time, without thinking, and I’m generally the mom that takes them to the movies. Sandor is twelve now and “yes for a yes” is so ingrained in his brain he knows without being told that I said yes to Hot Pockets and ice cream so he says yes to dealing with the groceries.

The system works but I promise you, all kids, even the very best, make stupid decisions and screw.  As I’m writing this, Sandor is home, raking leaves, instead of in school because he messed up and got suspended.  Latter today he’s going to work at the Jackson House, a local homeless shelter and food pantry.

Be patient, consistent, smile at your kids a lot and have fun. It’ll work out.