Rewards and Discipline – DEFCON Style: Tacklerism Tuesday

Inspiration can strike in the oddest places.

The shower.

The toilet (if you’re The Tackler).

Or the Chik-Fil-A play area.

Last Friday was a near perfect day: The Tackler was an ANGEL, in a way that is rarely seen.

Sure, he’s usually a “good” kid.

I see this look a lot...

He is not often “angelic”.

He listened. He acquiesced to my requests.

He was nice to his sister. Really nice.

I had to wonder if he was the same child written about in that day’s “what the frak?” moment.

Thanks to this “good behavior” I ventured out to Chik-Fil-A  so both kids could expel pent up energy in the nice air conditioning.

The Tackler made new friends and remained in “Angel Mode”.

“If you don’t put your shoes on, you’re going to be in yellow light. Yellow light, Max.” Another mother warned a boy playing with The Tackler.

“Yellow light?” I asked.

“It’s a system they use at his day care and we use it home. We call it the “stoplight”.


We left, met up with CG for lunch and the angelic behavior continued.

And it hit me.

This “stoplight” idea, could totally work for The Tackler, particularly during his little rebellions of refusing to leave somewhere or use the bathroom.

“Sweetie, we’re going to use colors to show the choices you make. When you’re a good boy, you’ll be in green. If you don’t listen or make a wrong choice you’ll go to yellow. And if you keep not listening you’ll be in red. Red is bad.”

“And then if I’m really good I’ll be in green. And then I’ll be blue. And purple.”

“Uh, there’s no blue or purple, just green.”

As the hour unfolded, he latched onto this idea, grasping the theoretical concept surprisingly quick.

But always there was blue.

Sometimes purple.

I went with it.

And Discipline DEFCON was born:

The Tackler helped me draw and color our DEFCON.

Purple: Awesomeness. Well behaved, helpful, complies without argument. Perks: Can choose what to eat for snacks/meal (within reason). Power to commandeer mommy’s writing time while Lil Diva naps as reward.

Blue: Very good. Child has done something above average to get here or been well behaved in green for an extended period of time. Perks: special snack and parents more likely to capitulate for special outing/game/movie.

Green: Good. No added perks or benefits,  just a normal level of well behaved. Minimal level required to do anything fun.

Yellow: Dropping here means a Time Out and/or some alone time upstairs. Can’t do anything special, play games with adults, or have  snack. Easier to go up from this level than the ones above..

Red: Bad. No privileges. No snacks. No bath/shower if bedtime. During the day this equals sent to room for period of time. If behaves there, moves to yellow. If no time to improve, is sent straight to bed.

The colors slide, meaning you don’t just go from purple to red or vice versa. You have to work your way up, although a run of bad choices can plummet the rank.

We’ve used this for four days.

It’s been fairly effective to ward off the ornery behavior pattern. Or when he goes into “testing” or “button pushing” mode. Often just the threat of “If you do that again, you’ll drop a color” has worked.

It is not near as effective against the temper flare and meltdown.

Still, one of my biggest issues lately is the Four Year Old Defiance rising even on the simple requests.

This has helped immensely.

And he is so proud when he’s in purple.

It’s awesome.

What method(s) do you use to try to direct your child’s behavior in the right direction?

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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19 Responses to Rewards and Discipline – DEFCON Style: Tacklerism Tuesday

  1. I love this, Kelly.

    And my favorite part is that there are more “good” colors for him to earn than just GREEN.

    Rainbow behavior is a beautiful thing…because who doesn’t want to pick out snacks???

    • Yes, I’ve learned my son is like me: very reward based. So the opportunity to be REALLY good and earn power – it just seemed like a good idea.

      Tonight he really turned up the good behavior and ended in purple. I took him out for frozen yogurt and he told me:

      “Mommy, tomorrow I’m going to be in purple ALL day and then I can have ice cream again.”

      “Hon, if you do that, we are totally having ice cream again. I would be SO proud.”

  2. Katie says:

    Hmmm, what an interesting idea. I’ll have to keep this in mind for Jake in a year or two.

    • I tell you…. it’s really giving him incentive. And warning him before he acts out has helped stop the actions from occurring… Not always, but enough that I’m quite thrilled.

      He loves “purple power” – because it gives him something new and more power than he typically gets.

      Good luck on the potty training. I had to switch it up a lot with The Tackler and involve much bribing – he had ZERO interest even around three years old.

  3. Diane says:

    ahhhh, behavioral psychology…..

    If he stays blue or purple for a week he should get some kind of super-special treat (in my case it was a trip to Baskin Robbins for a banana split). If only I was still motivated by such simple rewards! It must have worked, though, thirty years later I can still remember the gold stars and the banana splits. I may have been slightly older than four, though, that might make a difference.

    • If he manages to stay purple for an entire day, I’ll be shocked. He plans to tomorrow because he wants ice cream again.

      Usually his impulses get a bit too strong to make it quite that long. We’ll see.

      He rocked the purple phase tonight.

  4. Annie says:

    This is really great. 🙂 It is similar to Love and Logic parenting. I’m a fan of that. It involves a huge amount of empathy like “oh, I’m so SORRY you behaved SO badly. I’m sad for you. Now you can’t (fill in the blank).” So instead of your child feeling like they made you angry or frustrated, they see you sad and empathetic which can confuse the heck out of them when they were trying to really push your buttons.

    They have a website at I’ve watched a seminar on DVD and the speaker really cracks me up. It was entertaining and eye opening.

    I love how Tackler invented new levels with additional colors. Life is not always black and white – or red, yellow, and green!

    • I learned he really loves blue, but purple is a close second. Since neither were in the original red/yellow/green pool, it is only natural he’d add it and make them “better”.

      It’s actually a great way to encourage even better behavior, not just good.

      I couldn’t have done it without The Tackler’s suggestions, either.

  5. Sandy says:

    I love this idea! I’m definitely sharing this with my daughter for the grandkids. May give her a little more calm to some of the situations that arise.

  6. Its a bit hard to try and figure out how to adjust my two year old twins’ behaviour. But geez its like talking to a wall!
    Alot of screaming, threatening etc. Sometimes it goes smoothly and they listen first time round. Everyone is happy then. 🙂
    Shudder to think what happens when they turn four!

  7. Ilana says:

    That’s great that it’s working. Can you lose blue? Seems like you should be able to lose blue for simplicity’s sake. Please let me know if it continues to work!

    As for how I discipline— I’ve noticed that when Mazzy does the fake cry tantrum thing, I can’t help but laugh at her. Word is out on whether that’s effective or not!

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  10. mypajamadays says:

    I still use Love and Logic. I also really liked the book Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel (who knew all those years ago that Blair from Facts of Life would be a parenting resource?) But I did something similar with the youngest, a system they use in school. Colored Popsicle sticks in corresponding cups, another stop light system. It was very effective when she had to physically move her stick from the Green cup (which everyday started – it was assumed she was going to have a good day) and then move it to yellow or red. I love how creative your son is though!

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