I’ve written about my cousins Jack’s and Wayne’s resistance to getting out of bed when their fathers called them for morning milking. A student of mine had a brother with the same problem, and it was driving her father to distraction. She devised a solution that she presented in the best paper I ever received in my behavior management class.
My favorite and most frequently taught class during twenty-five years of university teaching was: “Discipline and Behavior Management.” I required all students to plan and conduct a behavior change project, applying the principles that I taught.
One of my students (I wish that I could remember her name) described a solution to a long-time farmer problem: getting their sons out of bed early to help with the morning milking.
This young lady told me that her father was “beside himself” trying to get her brother out of bed. Her father got so agitated that she was afraid he’d have a heart attack. She devised a plan based on the principles that she’d learned in my class.
She told her father to relax. She said that he shouldn’t holler and curse; rather, he should sit and wait until her brother decided to leave his bed to help with the milking. Her father was skeptical. He resisted at first, not sure how that approach could possibly solve his problem. But he was desperate, so he agreed to give it a try.
I taught my students that consequences determine behaviors, and the consequence of milking late in the morning is milking later at night. Farmers know that time between milking must be spaced fairly evenly, or the cows can develop problems. Even her brother understood and accepted that truism.
But there was another consequence of late-evening milking. That meant that her brother wouldn’t get to town when all of his friends arrived there. And if he slept very late into the morning, he might miss them completely. The young lady said that her brother’s sleep-ins ended, and her father was ecstatic with the result.
I was ecstatic about her ingenuity and project implementation. She was ecstatic when receiving her grade. I’d never given an A+ on both a paper and course grade before.
In fact, this story made such an impression on me that I later incorporated it into my book Bittersweet Harvest.