Yellow Card, Red Card: A Behavior Modification Game

I’ve just come up with a new behavior modification game for the Princess called “Yellow Card, Red Card” (YCRC). We’ve only started playing it for a few days (and I’m still making up rules as we go along), but it’s amazing how much more cooperative she’s become in a short time.

YCRC is a spin-off on the Conversation Train Game which she learned in speech this week.

In the Conversation Train Game, each player is to make a comment (related to previous person’s comment/question), ask a question (related to previous person’s comment/question), or gracefully transition to another topic. Whenever a person correctly completes her/his turn, s/he puts down her “car” (a colored card) on the track, and the cards eventually create a “train.” If someone says something totally random/off-topic, s/he gets a lightning bolt on one of his/her cards. If s/he interrupts the other person, s/he gets a yellow card (a big no-no). The person with the most cars on the track without a lightning bolt or yellow card wins. It’s a great way to practice how to listen and make conversation.

Like most kids, she loves to win, and she loves it even more when she wins without getting any lightning bolts or yellow cards on her cars.

For YCRC, I’ve borrowed the yellow card from the Conversation Train Game and the penalty system from soccer (football)—yellow card for a penalty, and a red card for a serious penalty (also equal to two yellow cards). In YCRC, I give her a stern verbal warning before I give her a yellow card. So far, she’s only needed the verbal warning to get back on track. And yes, I’m enjoying this while it lasts.

However as I write this, I’ve decided that YCRC shouldn’t be all punitive/negative. I’ll issue green cards any time she says or does something good, or when she completes one of her tasks—like putting away her toys, setting up/clearing the table, helping with the laundry, or tidying up the shoes in the closet/near the door. To encourage her to be self-motivated, I’ll double the green cards if she does something without my asking her.

The green cards can be redeemed for certain prizes/privileges. I still have to come up with a good exchange system. I guess it all depends on what motivates her. Right now just avoiding yellow cards seems to work, but I know I’ll have to figure out something else, like a “forgiveness program” (get rid of yellow/red cards with x number of green cards) or perhaps have her earn green cards for a special toy, Wii or TV time, or a chance be Mommy’s Boss (as if she isn’t already).

Come to think of it, I should play a version of Conversation Train Game and YCRC. The Conversation Train Game can help me be a better listener/conversationalist, and YCRC can help me break some bad habits and encourage some good ones. For instance, I can earn green cards by working on something I’ve been putting off—like dealing with financial stuff, making certain phone calls/appointments, or cleaning the fridge or my office. With so many green cards, I can redeem them for treats like a massage, manicure/pedicure, a frivolous shopping trip ($100), or perhaps the grandest of treats, a round-trip plane ticket to see a friend on one of the coasts.

Hmmmm… I might be onto something here.

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