My very wonderful sister in law said today that I will try to clicker train anything that breaths. She may be right. But when something works why fight it? I’ve trained the horses, our dog, a cow. I could work with the cat or the goats but there’s only so much time in a day.
Instead I’ve been concentrating on children. I don’t know that we’re allowed to clicker train children. It might not be PC. Instead I’ve been doing some TAG teaching and positive reinforcement.
I volunteered for an after school program my daughter is in. It must have been a moment of insanity and I soon realized just how much I didn’t want to do it. It’s right after school and the children, especially the boys, needed to be out using up all that energy that had been contained throughout the day. They cold not sit still, instead rough housing and bouncing about the room. Not that I blame them but it did make life difficult. After a few weeks of yelling and ordering around I decided there must be a better way.
Enter the clicker. And a bag of candy.
I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to go about it at first, whether I would click them individually or as a group. We rotate through four groups each person taking a different group each week. This would allow me to test the training on all the different children and not mean that it had only worked because of the certain children it was applied to. Also that I had to train different ones every week.
I sat down with the first group, the first time, and asked if they remembered when I brought my horse to the talent show last year. Rather gratifyingly, most of them did. This is a rural school, most if the kids have horses of their own. Seeing a horse isn’t a big deal to them. Our tricks had excited them though, some remembered that he could bow, others that he danced. I then told them that I was going to train them the same way I trained him, by telling them what good jobs they were doing. Then I loaded the clicker. One click, one little piece of candy each, a few times over. Soon every time I clicked all their little hands were stuck out waiting.
I clicked them for sitting down, for listening, then as they got the idea every time one asked if they could help, invited another child to join their group, was polite, or helpful. The whole group got a candy so I tried to be sure no one was doing anything particularly rotten. All those little hands would stick out, then they always asked why? I explained that someone had helped or been nice.
I got a few, Wait, all I have to do is say thank you to get candy?! Soon everyone of them was offering help, inviting another child to work with them, apologizing exuberantly if they bumped into each other.
It worked the same through every group. Even the most difficult were tolerable with a few clicks. The adults stood around after the last class telling horror stories of their evening. One fight. Three children in one group banging around the room, climbing over and under desks. Nobody paying attention. I sat quietly and listened. Mine had been wonderful.
This week the lady in charge brought a few bags of candy of her own.
At church we are getting a handful of small children ready for the
Christmas program. Ages three up to early teens. The smallest have to
walk up the aisle and say a few words into the microphone. They started
out shy and quiet. We added a small reward after each repetition of
their lines. First with a click, this is all experimental, then without.
It worked much better without. Instead of a click and every child
getting a candy every time, the one who finished their lines quietly
gets a candy reward.
They march enthusiastically up the aisle and shout into the microphone. This may be working too well 😉
The older kids get their reward too. After their patience in waiting for the littles to finish and reading their lines we make the trip down the line giving each one a candy.
Then my children started doing this the other night. He was playing the dog and she his owner. She was doing quite the job training him too.
This may be getting out of hand.