Punch Card Reward System

I was reading the paper this morning, and I came across a story about a school in Kingston, Ontario that implemented a reward system for good behaviour. In this system, students wear an ID card around their neck, with a punch card tucked in behind. Every time the student goes something ‘good’, they get a hole punched in their card. They need a certain number of holes to participate in special events.

Some parents are boycotting the system, and as a result their children are not being permitted to particpate in the Halloween party. Not because they’re badly behaved, but because they don’t have the punch cards and therefore don’t have the requisite number of holes. The parents are angry because they say this amounts to a punishment for their kids. The principal says if they don’t participate, they can’t expect the benefits that would come with participation.

Speaking purely for myself, the very idea of this sort of reward system is horrifying. The principal argues that by implementing the reward system now, later the children will learn that good behaviour is its own reward. And how will that happen? How does receiving a hole in a card for lining up quietly create an incentive to line up quietly once the reward is gone? Isn’t it possible that it will lead to the children expecting some sort of prize for every little thing they do?

I am a big fan of Barbara Coloroso and Alfie Kohn, parenting experts and educators who argue against rewards and punishments for children. The lack of praise was a big sticking point for me at first, since our culture is so geared in this direction. Spend five minutes at a playground and count how many times you hear ‘good job’ or its equivalent. But my perspective changed when I did a little bit of reading and soul-searching.

The problem with artificial systems like punch cards, sticker charts, or time outs is that kids aren’t learning why they should behave in a certain way. They don’t come to understand the impact their actions have on others. They’re not learning to think critically. Instead they’re learning to avoid getting caught when they’re ‘bad’. To seek rewards and praise. And to please others first.

These are not messages I want to give to my children. And so far, I’ve found that you really can parent without using time outs, sticker charts, and lots of empty praise. It’s a big departure, but it’s completely freeing as a parent. Your kids will not be hooligans who walk all over you because you treat them with respect and dignity. Really.

So, yes, I entirely disagree with the school. Having said that, though, I sort of wonder if the parents are taking the best route. I think that if Hannah’s school implemented something like this I would voice my protest, but I wouldn’t necessarily boycott if it meant my kid missed out on all the fun. The boys in the article are in grade 5, so they may be able to understand the situation. I know that for my little one, it would seem completely unfair and incomprehensible to miss a party because of her mom.

In the end I just really hope that I don’t encounter this sort of thing in my kids’ schools. I think these sorts of situations are exactly what leads so many parents to choose home-schooling.

Signs of Autumn

It’s autumn in Metro Vancouver. The days are getting shorter, and there’s sometimes frost on the grass in the morning. Even the quality of the light has changed, from the golden haze of summer to bright and crisp days.

In our neighbourhood people are putting up their Halloween decorations.

Everywhere the trees are changing colour. Although the fall display in this part of the world isn’t the most impressive, it’s still pretty. :-)

And at our park the baseball diamond has gone to weeds. They’ve even set up soccer goalposts in the outfield, where the little kids play on the weekends.

And, of course, children also enjoy playing in all the fallen leaves. Hannah is no exception, as we’ve already seen.

The Business of Being Born

Yesterday a friend and I watched The Business of Being Born on DVD. I’ve wanted to see this film for a while – I was planning to put it on my Christmas list. So I jumped at the chance to visit and watch it together.


Red Envelope Entertainment

I have a confession to make. Jacob’s birth was very smooth and fast, and I was able to do it without any medications or interventions, assisted by a fabulous midwife. It was exactly what I could have hoped for. And yet I’ve been feeling a little shell-shocked. It was too fast, and I was sort of afraid and in pain and I didn’t really want to do it. I realize I sound kind of whiny, but there it is.

Watching this film was actually very healing for me. Seeing a homebirth midwife in labour herself, clearly wanting to be anywhere else and doing anything else was awesome. It reminded me that we all struggle with birth, because it’s hard. But in the end these experiences are our own, and they are whole and authentic as they are.

Red Envelope Entertainment
Red Envelope Entertainment

Overall, I found the film to be entertaining, educational, and well-balanced. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who is pregnant, or just wants to learn more about the history and culture of birth. Although our medical system is somewhat different in Canada and the issues are not exactly the same, childbirth is still childbirth, and so it’s relevant for women pretty much everywhere.

That, and there are some pretty great births in this movie. Watching them reminded me of this great miracle that is new life. Those who are fortunate enough to take part in it, well, there’s nothing better than that.

Canadian Maternity Leave

It’s Mat Leave Monday! Today I’m giving a brief overview of how maternity leave works in Canada. If you’re really interested in the nitty-gritty details, you can read all about it here.

Canadian parents are eligible for maternity and parental benefits, administered through the federal government’s employment insurance system. In practice most people refer to both as ‘maternity leave’, particularly when only the birth mother is receiving them. However, there are important distinctions.

Maternity benefits are paid for 15 weeks, and only a birth mother is eligible to receive these benefits. Even surrogate mothers, or those whose babies do not survive, may apply. Parental benefits are paid for 35 weeks, and partners and adoptive parents may receive these benefits as well. If parents share benefits, the total between them may not exceed 50 weeks. In addition, there is a 2-week waiting period on the shared claim, so the total time away from work is 52 weeks.

There are some exceptions to this. In order to receive maternity or parental benefits you must qualify for employment insurance. In general, this means that you have 600 hours of insured income during the previous 52 weeks, or since your last leave. The self-employed can’t receive benefits, since their hours are not insurable (although Stephen Harper has proposed that should change).

Edited to add – That has now changed. See my article Maternity Leave Eligibility for the Self-Employed.

Maternity and parental benefits do represent a significant drop in income for most families. You receive only 55% of your insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $447 a week (and $0 for the 2-week waiting period). Some employers do offer supplemental benefits for all or part of the leave, but I don’t think this is the norm. There also may be conditions applied to supplemental benefits in some cases.
Edited to add – For claims established Dec. 27, 2009 or later, the maximum benefits have increased to $457 per week.

Canada compares pretty favourably to other countries. While our maternity and parental leave policies are not the very best, we’re competitive on the global stage. If you’re curious to compare for yourself you can find some articles here, here, and here.

Why should we care about maternity and parental benefits? And why should we, as taxpayers, foot the bill? Because generous maternity benefits increase the birth rate (see here and here and even here) and breastfeeding rates (read this and this). And because we want our children and families to be happy and healthy. Jacob is almost 12 weeks old, and leaving him now to return to work would be very difficult for me. Because I receive maternity benefits I don’t have to make the economic decision to return to work before my child and I are ready. And that’s a very good thing.

Videos

I’ve updated our videos. Rather than host a video page here, I’ve created a playlist on YouTube. You can access the link on the top left, or you can click here. Most of the videos are not new, but a couple are. Including one that I took of Hannah playing in the park today…

Financial Crisis

Now that I’m home on maternity leave, I’m getting all of my news from Oprah and Jon Stewart. Current events, political analysis, fashion tips, they’re all coming from talk show hosts and their guests. So, pretty much my entire understanding of the current financial crisis comes from Suze Orman, Oprah’s go-to financial expert.

I’m trying to understand what I should be doing, and how this whole thing will affect me. My RRSPs are in the toilet, but I won’t be needing them anytime soon so that’s most likely not a problem. We have a little bit socked away in an emergency fund, and it’s federally insured so I know that’s safe. If my employer goes belly-up I’ll still get my maternity benefits, since those come from the government. In spite of all the belt-tightening that Oprah’s talking about, I don’t think anything’s changed yet for me.

These are interesting times, that much is for sure. Are we on the brink of the next Great Depression? Or will it all blow over once the US election is over? Should I be buying stocks now that they’re all so cheap? Or should I be keeping my money under my mattress? For now I’m just sitting tight, trying not to spend too much, and waiting to see how it all plays out.

And now for something completely different. How do you like the new blog look? I’m still working on it, but I feel like I’m making some headway.

Pumpkin Patch

Today we headed off to Maple Ridge to visit the Laity Pumpkin Patch. Those of you who are paying attention may recall that we visited last year as well.

Unfortunately this year we hit traffic, and the 20-minute drive took us almost an hour. Hannah was pretty much done about half an hour in.

Luckily Jacob slept most of the way.

We did eventually reach our destination, and a good time was had by all. We came, we saw, we fed the baby. We toured the enchanted forest and saw the animals and jumped in the mud. Most importantly, we found two lovely pumpkins.

And what outing with children could possibly be complete without a diaper change in the back of the car? None I’ve taken with a small baby.

I am also happy to report that my work on this website continues apace. I’m mostly making background changes at the moment, but if things go to plan you will start seeing more visible changes in the next week or so.

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