What good behavior means to a 9 year old

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 12.21.51 AM Missouri 4th grader Brayden Ingram is a “good kid.” In fact, he’s so “good” in school, that this year, he racked up piles of ‘good behavior tickets’ in the classroom. These tickets are the keys to unlocking all sorts classroom fun. Brayden can use his good behavior tickets for special meals, fun events, and small prizes in the classroom. But it didn’t take long for Brayden to realize that the system that he benefits from is not entirely fair to other students. “I feel like the behavior tickets constantly leave someone out feeling hurt. I get sad when I see someone that didn’t get a prize. I get really sad when I see tickets being deducted from peers,” Brayden confided.

So this fourth grader decided to put his own spin on the system. He began to save his tickets so that he could share them with students who struggle more with classroom expectations and behaviors. “I got the idea when one of the boys at school used his tickets to buy me lunch in the classroom with him. Afterwards, I started saving up 110 tickets so I could buy lunch in the classroom for the whole class.” It took a month of saving up, but Brayden felt it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces. But his generosity didn’t stop there.

The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read. Brayden thought that felt sad. He realized that some of his classmates did not have enough tickets for a movie, so he went around sharing his tickets with five of his classmates in the hopes that no one would be left out.

He admits to feeling a bit nervous when he noticed so many of his tickets were being used, but he decided that if he was the one who needed to go read, he would be happy to do it for the good of the group. In the end, Brayden had enough tickets left over for his own movie and snacks. From buying lunch to his move at the movies, Brayden is a firm believer in paying it forward. “I did what I did to give other kids the opportunity to experience the fun events and to help them see kindness in the world and hopefully help them pass it on.” And Brayden didn’t have to wait long for his kindness to spread.

His Auntie Jen teaches 3rd grade at his school.  Inspired by Brayden’s campaign, Jen decided to pay the library fines of 13 students so they could participate in the end of the year field day celebration activities. This story is so inspiring because Brayden not only practices caring and kindness in the classroom, but because at age 9, he was able to see how harmful seemingly “positive” reward systems can be for students who struggle with classroom behaviors.

Bravo, Brayden! We’ll pass your story on!

8 thoughts

  1. Wow. This is amazing. One of my kids is one of those who struggles and is left out. I can’t even say how choked up this makes me to think of how this kid cared for others around him.

    On the flipside, how can we as adults not see how behavior rewards hurt kids? Kids are people too.

  2. @Tina… agreed! And I think it’s particularly difficult for people who use rewards to see them as negative, since they seem so essentially positive. A focus on the reward itself and the kids who get them makes it seems like a happy thing (although I would argue even those kids are harmed by them). But focusing on the children who need support they aren’t getting, or who are set up for failure in systems that expect more than they can deliver and who are then excluded from fun events or treats, shifts that idea considerably. I think we need to talk more about the kids for whom rewards don’t work and/or the students who miss out on so much because the happy things in and out of school are used as rewards.

  3. I love the idea of ‘growth mindset’ tickets.

    I don’t like the idea that if they are not good then the punishment is to read. To me, that means ‘reading’ is bad, and we all want or kids to read more books.

  4. Bray’s Auntie E here: I just want to share what I loved most about Bray’s story. At the end of recounting the events to his mom, she asked him “And what did your teacher say when she noticed?” His reply was “Oh, I didn’t tell anyone. I did it to make my heart feel good.” His genuine nature did not seek the approval of his superior. He did not need to be deemed “good” from an external source. Awe!

  5. Why is reading being used as a punishment? What message does that send? There’s a lot wrong with this school’s tactics. What on earth are the teachers thinking?

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