Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Great Day Green Plate

When I was in first grade you were either good or bad and mostly good. Nobody wanted do deal with the wrath of Mrs. Arcidiacono when she was mad. But, 20+ years later when my son entered first grade there was a system for gauging behavior so elaborate that a owners manual would not have been too far fetched. Nine years later I only remember bits and pieces of the plan. Kids started off every day with a name plate. Children moved from green to yellow to red, depending on their behavior. As you can imagine... green was good - keep on moving. Yellow was a warning - slow down, you're in the danger zone. And, red was flat out bad - STOP!

With a son who is not only energetic, but at the time was also an only child (just dying to get to school where he had peers to talk and play with), we spent our fair share of time in the yellow and red zones. We, like most parents, tried every trick in the book... rewarding the good days and punishing the bad days. That year, on St. Patrick's Day, I presented Ricky with what I was sure would be the magical solution to all of our behavioral problems. I poured over my project for weeks, believing I guess that there was a correlation between the amount of time I spent on the project and its effectiveness in improving Ricky's classroom behavior. Finally I gave it to him - wrapped all in green and with a big beautiful green bow. It was after all...

The Great Day Green Plate. The idea behind the plate was that each night Ricky came home with a green sticker, he would get to eat from his custom designed green plate. Make it through the whole week and he sets the menu for that night's dinner... and more importantly... for that night's dessert. I wish I could say it turned his behavior around. He still periodically ended up in the yellow or red zone... for some rendering the plate a failure. But, it did draw extra special attention to his good behavior and Ricky always knew when he was eating from the right plate.

Ricky's fifteen now and the novelty of the plate has worn off some. We still pull the plate out when he has a big accomplishment - winning a race at a swim or track meet; getting a good grade on an exam or project; his birthday; and periodically yes, making it through the week without "incident." He's proud of his plate and he's sentimental enough that I think someday he'll pass it along to his kids. I'm satisfied with that. If the plate gets passed along and he can help create a sense of family tradition, I'll give the green plate an A+!

There's an equivalent to the Green Plate that you should know about. It's the Red Plate (believe it or not). Written around the edge of the plate are the words, "You Are Special Today." The idea is the same. The plate is intended to be a family heirloom, passed along and used to recognize major accomplishments. It even comes with a marker allowing you to write the date and accomplishment on the bottom of the plate. I love giving these plates as either a wedding gift or baby shower gift. When I give one I feel like I am giving a lifetime of warm memories - and maybe even the start of a family tradition. If you want to see one on-line type in The Original Red Plate Company. They're made in Germany.

Signing off until tomorrow...

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