Dad's World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

I had wondered aloud if poor African children had star charts and if they did what feckin’ rewards did they get but then I realised I wasn’t being fair. 

WE are on week three of ‘Project Be a Good Boy’ and there are signs; small, small signs, but signs nonetheless that things might just be improving with the operation’s poor little guinea pig, Fionn.

At the heart of the PBGB is a star chart, brought in earlier this month as a way of monitoring and praising behaviour that we deem good, or maybe I should put it another way, not bad.

Ciara, my brehon law wife, had wanted to bring it in sooner but I had poo-pooed her. Modern day rubbish I thought to myself. 

Why, I had wondered, does a human being need to have tangible rewards for behaving well when it’s so obvious that behaving well benefits everyone around them including themselves.

I had wondered aloud if poor African children had star charts and if they did what feckin’ rewards did they get but then I realised I wasn’t being fair. 

My kids, through no fault of their own, are surrounded by consumption and consuming. 

They are born into it; the idea that if you play ball you might just get a new one. 

Gifts and treats and surprises and the truck load of toys that Western children have now are simply the norm and they get them, all of these extras, if they behave.

They are given to them by people, like me, who probably feel guilty that they can’t spend as much time with them as they would like and it’s probably completely and utterly wrong but to use that well-worn moniker of the Irish recession ‘we are where we are’ and that’s how we do things. 

So when things started getting out of hand a couple of weeks ago I approached Ciara about her idea and the chart went up the next day.

We were probably a little ambitious in the first week. 

Fionn was required to remember not one but four things that he wasn’t allowed to do over the course of seven days and perhaps unsurprisingly he didn’t hit his target of (a ridiculous) 25 stars, which by the way would have bagged him a brand new Batman Cave. 

There were significant improvements, however. The bad language disappeared and the hitting, particularly of his little brother, saw a significant reduction (excuse the civil service parlance but that’s how we speak to him when we are going through his chart).

The following week, the hitting had almost disappeared and he was definitely cognisant of it. There were times when he was bursting to lash out but he held it back and that probably deserved an extra star.

There were definite improvements but alas he had to make do with the second prize. Twenty stars got him a magazine; we have to give the poor fella something for all that effort, even the Victorians would have.

We are now on week three, and having decided to drop the bad language side of things, because he’s done so well, the number of stars has been set to the fairer target of 18 which have to be earned over seven days in three categories — not hitting, asking once, and backchat (Yes, backchat is the latest. He’s four and we are already getting backchat).

I should mention that there are bonus stars for not waking us up in the middle of the night with imaginary ailments. So far, so good. 

There have been episodes but in the main he looks like he might be on target this week. Here’s hoping.

That Batman Cave has been in our cupboard for weeks. He’ll find it eventually.


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