DOES: simple tool can be worn on your person and send you reminders via vibrations at a timed interval of your choice; single-function gadgets can be very powerful.
INVEST: $59.50 (prices may vary with retailer)
TOOLS: Family Fix-its, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, I Can Take Care of Myself, Remember to Learn
EXPERT OPINION: Beverly Whalen-Schmeller, School Psychologist, Metro Nashville Public Schools
See Giveaway Details Below
Few things are harder than teaching a child to stop depending on you and start depending on himself. Here’s what I mean: I have successfully quit smoking but have had almost NO success with dieting. I think it’s because you don’t really need to smoke cigarettes to live. But you do need to eat food.
The same thing goes with teaching children to become more independent. You can be teaching them how to to make their bed but then, at the end of the day, you’re making sure they’ve rinsed out all the shampoo on their head. Help is help. I think it’s so instinctive for them to expect help when things get hard.
But we still need to teach them how to be independent, right? After having success with our Park and Learn and Time Timer, I figured I can try other independence-fertilizers as well. Thus, I decided to try out the MotivAider, a product that I thought was basically for kids with ADHD who have trouble paying attention.
But I was wrong. MotivAiders are not solely about paying attention or ADHD or ADD. It’s really a tool to change all kinds of habits and behaviors. A simple way to explain how it works is that you can wear this gadget and have it vibrate every 4 minutes (you choose # of minutes or seconds). You can adjust the vibration intensity and length and even make it randomly vibrate too.
To be effective, you should teach yourself to self-talk a specific phrase when it vibrates like:
“My mother will yell at me. Get back to work.”
or maybe just -
“Get back to work.”
Walking Speaks Louder Than Talking
But after the MotivAider arrived at our doorstep, I stressed over how to introduce it to my oldest son whose ADHD allows him to think a hundred thoughts per minute. This makes him very creative but also makes doing “work” very hard. Which phrase should I teach him? How long should he wear it for? Should I send it to school? Oy!
And then one day, I looked online and found out that the great Russell Barkley, who wrote one of my favorite books, Your Defiant Child, said that PARENTS could use the MotivAider too! It would help them remember to praise their children which would produce positive results at home.
As much as I know that I must catch ‘em when they’re good, I’m a very half-empty gal. So I took a deep breath, made myself read the directions (they have instructional videos now!) and started wearing it. I wore it for many months until I finally gave to who I meant to give it to in the first place! But, I am so glad I wore it first because now I know with my own brain and body – this thing freakin’ works!
If You’re Stressed or Have Half-Empty Vision
At first I wore it just to do remind myself to do more “specific-labeled praise,” where I point out the actions and behaviors that I want to see again. “Hey, that was really nice of you to share with your brother” or “wow, look how neat you are eating your dinner!” I must admit that I felt like Impostor Mom, but my kids? They looked at me like their mom had returned from a long trip away. They were smiling so much more every day! Ohmigosh, am I that crabby? After my impostor feelings went away, I started noticing myself more and noticing them more. I started noticing how bad things WEREN’T.
But wearing the MotivAider didn’t make things perfect. I still “lost it” sometimes but I did it so much less. And on those days, when I found myself apologizing to my son for my short temper, I showed him that I could set the timed vibrations to a shorter interval, like 2 minutes, to remind myself to “look at what I’m doing.” He gets to personally witness that I can and do help myself and that I didn’t lose my temper again after I adjusted my MotivAider. This was my covert sales pitch to my son because my end goal was to get him to use it!
I found out that I’m not the only grown-up who wears them. Lots of grown-ups do. Because it is such a simple tool, anyone can wear them to remind themselves to do anything like avoiding midnight snacks, trying to manage your temper, or even trying to manage your classroom.
The Best “Best Teacher Story” Ever!
Say what? Teachers wear this? Which teachers? Do they live in New York City? Well, I haven’t found someone here yet but I did find Beverly Whalen-Schmeller, PhD, a school psychologist working in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Bev, as she likes to be called works in four schools from preschool to high school and guess what she does? She works with teachers who wear the MotivAiders themselves to manage their classroom more effectively.
Bev first learned about the MotivAider years ago from a teacher named Jessica Weisenbach Sellers, who would wear it on herself in a special classroom created for children with a lot of behavioral support needs.
“She set her MotivAider up for every couple of minutes and she would give them points when the MotivAider went off,” Bev said noting that Ms. Weisenbach Sellers would keep the points on the board. It helped kids see that they could do the right thing. And did the kids see her wearing it?
“Of course!” Bev said. “Absolutely! She was transparent.”
Ms. Jessica Weisenbach Sellers! I am officially your greatest fan! What a progressive thinker you are! Jessica Weisenbach Sellers is now the lead behavior specialist in Nashville Public Schools. “She got promoted,” Bev said proudly.
Does Change Start with You First?
Bev says that elementary and preschool teachers especially love the MotivAiders that she lends out to them. “I check them out like a little library system,” Bev said. “I have to actually hound and nag them to give them back because they love them so much.”
I am still in awe. It’s one thing to wear it at home but in front of a whole classroom and your peers at work? That inspires me. A kid could wear his proudly in that same classroom then. Bev said, “It is very therapeutic for the teachers because classrooms are very frustrating places just like the rest of the world.” At this point, Bev is making me cry. I know firsthand how therapeutic it is and I am so moved by Bev and the teachers with whom she works because for the longest time, I was just thinking to myself: It’s his issue so he should wear it.
Bev responded to this cold New Yorker, in the sweetest, warmest, most gentle of American Southern tones, “Oh well, you see now… you can’t change other people. You can only change your own behavior.”
These Tools are For Everyone
Bev said that she gives them to teachers because in every classroom there always a kid who is having a behavior issue. Wait, only one kid in the class with a behavior issue? That’s sounds like a general education classroom to me. I would think that Bev would only use this with special education teachers.
“Noooooooo! No. No. No,” Bev said. Wow, any teacher could use a MotivAider according to Bev. She has the teacher use the device to monitor behavior for kids having a hard time in case they have to make a more astringent plan. “This is like baseline,” Bev said. “And this is also to help teachers understand Little Johnny is not bad all the time. You’re just tired,” she said sweetly. “Johnny is actually doing the right thing a lot of the time.” The plan is used to mark the positive behavior, Bev told me.
Improving Teacher-Student Relations
“The MotivAider makes the teachers feel better,” Bev said explaining that if the teacher feels better about the child’s behavior, that’s going to translate to the child that he’s not going to get yelled at all the time. Their relationship will improve. “You know, it’s kind of a big deal. The relationship between the teacher and the student is the biggest deal,” Bev said. “That’s where the learning happens because the kids want to please the teachers and it really taps into that motivation that all kids have.” I guess that is why my kids were smiling more. Bev just made it all click for me.
It’s About the People, Not Just the Tool
Good relationships do motivate! And it’s the users who take this good tool and make it a great tool. Aren’t Bev and her cohorts just the most amazing people? Bev actually paid for all five of the MotivAiders that she loans out to the teachers. Yep, she did. Isn’t this the greatest school story you’ve ever read?
But here’s one more thing if all of this didn’t convince you. One day, my husband got really sick with a fever thus I was on double duty and my boys were stressing me out. I had no time to myself. I even felt like I had to rush using the toilet! And I did rush, so much that my MotivAider that was clipped to my cargo shorts fell right into the toilet. (I’m usually careful at that time)
I gasped, I yelled, and almost said the F-word with my kids present right outside the bathroom but I suspect that since I had been wearing my MotivAider just seconds prior, I was still self-aware enough to stop myself from having that moment.
I still needed it so I bought a new one the next day. Nevertheless, I couldn’t throw my old one away. And thank goodness I didn’t because I put new batteries in it and it was working again! This happened almost a whole year ago and both lovelies are still working. Even better, now my son uses the MotivAider too! He has one for school and we share the other one at home. I had no idea that walking the walk could be so incredibly beneficial for my life, even beyond parenting goals. Most importantly, I got a chance to show my kid that I am not above helping myself. This doesn’t mean that he’s an expert at asking for help appropriately and in a timely fashion however, I see all of this as just laying bricks in his knowledge base of what is cool and not cool in this family. And the picture of Mom and MotivAider in his mind sends the message that helping yourself is definitely COOL.
The MotivAider folks would like to give one MotivAider away (MSRP $59.50) and will ship anywhere in the world. (They already ship to 48 countries and have been motivating with MotivAiders for 25 years.)
Click here to read an article from Teaching Exceptional Children Plus published by the Council of Exceptional Children. (Case study C is similar to the situation we’re discussing here)
Disclosure statement: Jenn has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post. The product was sent to Jenn to facilitate a review but we have two here, the second being purchased by me because the first one unexpectedly survived a brief swim.