The Strikes System for Corrective Discipline

"Strikes" is a variation on Tickets for children six and older. You still need a short list of target misbehaviors, posted on the refrigerator or bulletin board (see the description and example of a Target Behavior Inventory under "Tickets"), but instead of taking a ticket when a target misbehavior occurs, you simply call a strike, as in "You're ignoring me. That's strike one." The first misbehavior of the day is strike one, and so on. At the outset of the program, you give your child a daily allowance of three to five strikes. Again, the actual number is a judgment call. Once again, you can elect to have your child sit in time-out each time he incurs a strike

Obviously, and as is also the case with Tickets, you're going to give your child a "margin of error" where misbehavior is concerned. For example, if you give your child five strikes a day, then the first four constitute his margin of error—he can misbehave four times a day without penalty (other than time-out, if you've elected to use it). We're not going to expect perfection here.

When your child uses his last strike of the day, he's "out," meaning he experiences some meaningful consequence like being confined to his room for the remainder of the day without electronic diversions and going to bed at least one hour early. As is the case with Tickets, I generally recommend that the "play value" of the room be considerably lessened by removing favorite playthings.

Obviously, Strikes is a bit easier to administer than Tickets, but that same quality also lends itself to sloppiness or immoderation where enforcement is concerned. Sloppiness occurs when you forget to call strikes when misbehaviors occur, and you fall slowly back into old bad habits. Immoderation is at the opposite extreme; it occurs when you begin calling strikes over minutiae, trivia, such as the expression on your child's face. If you decide to use Strikes, simply be aware of those pitfalls.

As your child's behavior improves, you can "up the ante" by either reducing your child's daily allotment of strikes or adding specific misbehaviors to the TML. Don't do both! Do one or the other. If you begin with three target misbehaviors and five strikes (a four-strike margin of error), and within three weeks your child has that misbehavior pretty much under control, then you can either reduce his strikes to four per day (a three-strike margin of error) or add a new target. Don't ever reduce a child's daily allotment of either tickets or strikes to less than three.

It's definitely not a good idea to use Strikes with a child who averages numerous misbehaviors each day—an HM. The child's going to be in his room before nine o'clock in the morning! Several days of that is going to be demoralizing and he is not going to see any point in trying to master the program. He's going to give up, in which case a very counterproductive precedent has been set.

From "The Well Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works," copyright 2009 by John Rosemond

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