How 2 quarrelling kids helped invent the Better Behavior Wheel

Feb 8


Julie Butler

Julie Butler

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When David was nine and Laura was twelve, the battles ... to that, they got along great. Laura was always ... of her little brother, and he in turn, doted on her. Perhaps it was about


When David was nine and Laura was twelve,How 2 quarrelling kids helped invent the Better Behavior Wheel Articles the battles started.

Prior to that, they got along great. Laura was always
protective of her little brother, and he in turn, doted on

Perhaps it was about needing space, asserting
independence…whatever the reason, it drove my husband and I
crazy. It would start over the tiniest of excuses. One
minute the house would be quiet, and the next they'd be
shouting at one another.

"Mom, Laura won't give my CD back!"

"It's not yours. It's mine!"

"No it isn't. I got it for Christmas!"

"No you didn't. I did!"

And on and on it would go. Until, finally, one of us would
have to intervene. And there would be a truce…sort of. At
least until the next blowup.

We hated the atmosphere of tension that would invariably
follow these exchanges. Our once happy home was being turned
into a war zone, and it felt like there were land mines
scattered beneath our feet.

One night, in desperation, we had a conference. We called
the kids into the living room and told them how upsetting
their behavior was. We asked them for suggestions on how we
could restore peace and serenity back into the family.

Off to their rooms

Well, we didn't resolve anything on the spot. We sent them
to their rooms with instructions to each come up with a half
dozen appropriate consequences that we could impose the next
time they had a fight.

The following day we were presented with a list of
consequences from each. Some even looked pretty good.
Examples: Clean the other person's room; Do dishes for the
other person; Make the other person's bed for a week; Lend
your favorite CD or game to the other person for a week;
Make a list of 10 good things about the other person; Hug
and make up….

We decided to arrange the consequences around the perimeter
of a board, and then we attached a spinner in the middle.
When you gave it a spin, the spinner would eventually stop
and point to one of the consequences. Then we hung the board
up in the kitchen, in plain sight. We crossed our fingers,
and waited.

And waited.

It was amazing. Just the presence of the board, hanging on
our kitchen wall, had an instant calming effect on the
atmosphere in our home. Occasionally we'd see one of the
kids standing in front of the board, idly flicking the
spinner, checking it out. But the fighting had stopped.

Well not forever. It took about ten days before they forgot
about the board and peace was shattered by another battle.

We were ready.

We called them both into the kitchen, took the board down
off the wall, and placed it on the table. They knew what
they had to do. How could they refuse? They chose the
consequences. They practically invented the board. It landed
on the most dreaded consequence of all: Hug and make up!

The tension was broken as they awkwardly gave each other a
hug, mumbling apologies. We all had a good laugh, and life

Maybe we're on to something

Wow, we thought days later when there'd been no further
skirmishes…if this thing works so well for arguing, what
about some of the other issues that we seemed to be always
struggling with. Wasting electricity, for example. It seemed
like the kids were always leaving the lights on when they
left a room. Or they'd leave the TV on when they went to
bed. Or they'd take half hour showers. Why not make another
wheel with consequences related to wasting electricity?

Well, eventually and inevitably, we ended up making
consequences to cover seven different issues, or themes.
Excessive Arguing was joined by A Job Poorly Done, Leaving
the Lights On, Stretching the Truth, Taking Without Asking,
Talking Back, and Not Putting Things Back.

And then, because we felt that extra good behavior should be
recognized, we added another theme called Just Desserts,
consisting of rewards.

We called it The Better Behavior Wheel.

It has worked beyond our wildest expectations.

In the past we'd often let behavior slide.

"David…it's 8:30. Get the dishes done."

"I know." From downstairs where he's watching TV.

"David. It's 9:00. Get these dishes done right now!"

"I know."

Until we'd get angry. And then the consequences would end up
being out of proportion to the infraction. And blood
pressure would rise, and anger would reign.


But with the wheel…

"David…it's 8:15…you haven't started the dishes yet. I'm
afraid we'll have to spin the wheel."

"But, Mom…"

"I'm sorry, Dear. It's really not up to me. Those are the
rules we all agreed on. Gee, I hope you don't land on a
really bad consequence."

The amazing thing is…we're no longer the bad guys. We can
actually root for the kids as they drag themselves up to the
wheel. It's no longer an us against them issue. It's the
wheel that they have to answer to.

But the greatest thing of all…we hardly ever have to use the
wheel. It hangs on the kitchen wall, acting as a watchdog
and reminder. It's mere presence has worked miracles.

We want one too

After sharing our experience with our friends, and
demonstrating the wheel to them, we have received widespread
encouragement to make them on a commercial basis. Ultimately
we thought, why not? It's a great product. We know it works.
If it can help others the way it has helped us, it almost
seemed a shame not to make them.

We even made a Virtual Wheel - a download version that can
be played on the computer. (This is my husband's favorite
because he spent so many sleepless nights working on it.)

It's been four years since we had to send them to their
rooms, but David and Laura get along great these days.
They've both turned into wonderful teens, and we'd like to
think that the Wheel shares a huge portion of the credit for

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