Thursday, March 4, 2010

Three Strikes

In the past few months, too many of our days had been marked with yelling, temper tantrums, nasty words and hurt feelings. School began to feel like a battle zone, not the creative and emotional supportive center for learning that I'd imagined. Things were spinning out of control on an almost daily basis and nothing I did seemed to help. In fact, I seemed to be part of the problem. How could I fix our school and bring us back into good relationships with each other?

I began searching for a system of reminding my children of the behavior I expect, allowing them to correct their own behavior without my correcting, lecturing or yelling. I struggled with feeling swamped by the demands of discipline on top of the demands of teaching. I felt like my school was inching toward out of control. Granted, my own hormones may have been out of wack but the feeling of unhappiness in my interactions with my children were to pressing to ignore.

After much discussion with my cheerleader and chief idea man and much introspection and prayer, I've implemented the three strike policy. Each day my children have the opportunity to earn a "good day" toward a family dinner at a restaurant. In order to be able to go to the restaurant, all the children must have five good days. So potentially, we could go out to eat weekly. For each negative behavior during a school day I give the offending child/ren an x on their hand. No charts or fancy record keeping, just an x. Three x (xxx) and the offending child loses their "good day" status. It is simple, easy to follow through on and requires no fancy record keeping. Three strikes gets my point across and requires no conversation at all thus no yelling or lecturing. I began the plan with hope.

We have no problem defining negative behavior and my children understand my expectations. We are all very aware of my definition of negative behavior because I have lectured and yelled about negative behaviors until I'm frankly sick of hearing myself. For clarification here though, negative behavior includes but is not limited to arguing, complaining, excessive delays in work, touching siblings in anyway not hugging or kissing or exhibiting offensive attitudes.

The thing I love about the three strike system is that from the start it took the yelling/lecturing out of the day. I don't get worked up and neither do the children. The second thing I like is that it puts the children in charge of their own behavior. It also gives incentive for all to behave well , cooperate and encourage each other in their behavior. Finally, it starts new every morning. We all need that.

We've been working with three strikes for almost a month now and I've seen a dramatic difference in our days together. We rarely have three strike days. We usually manage to hold ourselves at two. I have to admit there was even a day that I got two strikes and I deserved them both. In fact, I believe my children practiced the grace by stopping at two. I know they've seen that grace modeled a time or two by me when they didn't get what they deserved.

Has three strikes fixed all our problems? No, but it's given us room to breathe and a way of rewarding the behavior we want to see and are proud of in a way that everyone wins. For me three strikes is a reminder that taking time to think about what is needed is a lot more productive that doing the same thing over and over again. I suppose it's good that the teacher is still learning and being taught by my students.

What creative systems have you developed for improving your life?


  1. What a creative idea. I'm glad it's working. I think it's very easy to get in the bad habit of trying to fix every misbehavior, when in reality, they know the right behavior, but it's not worth it to them to change. You've got a really smart plan here.

    Enjoy your dinners out!

  2. wow, a brilliant idea! I'm cheering you on!