Thinking hard about the stages of child development? Look to SillyBandz

Lately my office staff has taken to giving out Sillybandz as rewards for kids who bravely endure the sting of vaccines , cooperate during exams, or just behave well while along for the ride at a sibling’s doctor visit. The kids LOVE them. Better than stickers. Healthier than lollipops.

From an educational perspective, these glorified rubber bands can help demonstrate normal child behavior and development:

Toddlers explore their world by using all their senses. They will touch and pull on SillyBandz in imitation of their older siblings. But watch out, they also explore by mouthing objects…don’t let them choke on a band.

Preschool and young school aged children try to impose order to their world, learn rules, and then often follow rules to the extreme. This tendency explaines why primary school-aged kids count and sort their SillyBandz by color or category. They understand trading and bartering, and they apply their knowledge to SillyBandz. Starting now, they understand number value and assume that whoever has the most of something also has the most power. This explains their desire for more and more SillyBandz. Kids this age respond to the “here and now” in their environment. They have a poor concept of time. If you use the bracelets as positive incentives, give them one immediately as a reward. If you tell your four year old you will buy him SillyBandz next week as a reward, he will forget why you are rewarding him and he won’t be motivated to repeat  the good behavior you desire.

Middle school kids love to form clubs. Peers become more important than family. Wearing a particular set of SillyBandz makes them feel as if they belong to a club. This mentality is also the reason kids may wear unmatching socks- it puts them in the same club as their friends who also follow the identical fad. Other kids this age may balk entirely at the notion of SillyBandz (“they’re stupid” or “they’re for babies”) in an effort to avoid being like their younger siblings who are obsessed with SillyBandz.

Teenagers wear them when they believe that everyone else does. They are not so concerned about counting, ordering, or obtaining the most of something.  Like the middle school kids, they are concerned about fitting in. Because this is an implusive age as well as an age of moral development, the same teen may buy a hundred SillyBandz but then give them all away. With teens, choose your battles. Put your foot down about things such as drugs and poor school performance. However, if your teen feels like wearing SillyBandz to the prom, express your displeasure, if you must, but let her go.

We grown-ups simply take advantage of the popularity of SillyBandz and use them to reward our children for good behavior, for completing homework in a timely manner and without arguments, for getting a good grade, for remembering to brush teeth every day for a week without parental reminders, and on and on.

Or we can just wear them too. Wonder if that would kill their appeal for kids.

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2010 Two Peds in a Pod

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