Disciplining kids is tough. Whether you're trying to get them to clean up their rooms or stop acting up in class, how do you motivate kids to do the right thing? Some parents offer a reward to make good behavior more appealing, while others dole out punishment whenever not-so-good behavior occurs. This new app leans toward the carrot approach, with a creative twist on the art of disciplining kids.
Single dad Kevin Spiteri knows all too well how hard it can be. His son, Kyle, started acting out a few years ago when Kyle's mom and Kevin were going through a tough divorce. Kyle was in preschool at the time and he began doing things like pulling kids' hair, not listening to teachers, and behaving in other ways that continually led to him being sent home.
Spiteri tried everything to get Kyle to behave. “I went as far as paying someone to be with him during the day at school, to make it through the day and not be disruptive to the class,” Kevin told Yahoo! News. “I was willing to do anything to help him.” The Culver City, California, dad punished his son and took away his toys, but he didn't start to see any real behavioral changes until he looked for ways to positively reinforce his son's good behavior.
Spiteri created a board-game style poster for Kyle that had 100 connecting squares. Every 10 squares, he drew a picture of a small reward. At the end of the game — the 100th square — Spiteri pasted a pic of his son holding a toy that he desperately wanted from the toy store. With the help of Kyle's teacher, Spiteri put a sticker on the poster for every day that his son behaved at school.
It didn't take long before Kyle had his toy. And Spiteri, an occupational therapist for kids with special needs, realized that he could create an app version of his poster to help all kids (and their parents) who are struggling with discipline issues. The result is Behavior World, made by Spiteri and his business partner and fellow occupational therapist, Bryan Saavedra.
Parents and kids can download Behavior World on their i-gadgets and customize it to track a variety of behavior issues such as "I Kept My Hands to Myself," or "I Stayed In My Seat," or "I Did What the Teacher Asked." The app can also be used to help create good habits at home such as doing homework, washing hands, or eating a good dinner. The really cool part is that the same free app can be used by parents, teachers or anyone who works with kids — and that means consistency for kids who need it most. Kids earn tokens when they achieve a task and after 10 tokens they get a small pre-arranged reward like a trip to the zoo, extra bathtime, or something fun like camping in the living room.
As for Kyle, his dad says he is the "poster child" for how positive reinforcement can help improve behavior.
Now that's a win.