Bazooka Joe

Jan 23, 2024

I know it’s been a while since I’ve connected so I’m hoping you’ve all had a good start to the school year. I know, new school year, maybe new schools, new schedules, all of that can really ruffle our feathers, both for our kids and for us. I know this school year so far, we’ve had to get up about a half hour earlier than we used to and I am not a morning person. And so that has been really challenging. Because it doesn’t just start that morning. I have to make sure I get to bed on time the night before and that I have everything cleaned up and everything ready for the morning. But here we are. 

I think we’re in our third week of school. Things are getting a little bit smoother, except for the sports schedule, which is changing all the time. I accidentally brought my kid to her practice 45 minutes late. But that’s not why I’m writing to you today.

I’m writing to you because I got something funny yesterday and I thought I would share it with everyone. Yesterday I wanted a piece of gum so I looked in my bag. I had a piece of Bazooka Joe gum.  I don’t know if you grew up in the 80s, but if you did, you really know Bazooka Joe. It comes with a little comic, which I think is adorable. I had the piece of gum, and then I read the comic. This little comic cracked me up because it actually speaks to all the things I talk about with Collaborative Problem Solving® (CPS).

So the one character in the first box says, “Pesty if you wash your face, I’ll give you a piece of chocolate cake.” And then in the second box, it says, “And if you wash your ears, I’ll give you two pieces.” And then in the third box, Pesty says, “maybe I’d better take a bath!” 

I thought it was really funny because this is one of the reasons why I have difficulty with rewards and consequences. Because it sounds similar to this little scenario. Let’s say it’s the parent and the child in this comic. The parent is trying to get the child to clean themselves (I know many parents who have difficulty with getting their child to take a shower). In this case, the parent is saying, “Hey, kiddo, if you comply with my expectation of you cleaning yourself, I’ll give you a reward. You know what, actually, if you not only clean your face, but your face and your ears, I’ll double that reward.” 

What does that teach the child? Oh, the child was really smart in this comic and said, “hey, what if I take a bath? You’ll give me everything?”  So if all we’re trying to do is teach right from wrong or just basic things, fine, maybe a reward or consequence will work right? I’m not saying that rewards or consequences are bad. We just want to think through why you are using them and what is your goal with the use of rewards and consequences  

In Collaborative Problem Solving®, we want to do a number of things. We want to build the parent-child relationship and build neurocognitive thinking skills like flexibility, frustration, tolerance, and problem-solving. We also want to reduce these challenging situations, right? 

I don’t want to have to fight with my child every darn night about taking a shower because then it’s a battle and negotiation of rewards and consequences. We want to find a solution that works long term not just tonight. 

And so with CPS®, what we do is we focus on is what’s getting in the way for the child with regards to taking a shower. We might just come at them with some curiosity and say, “Hey, kiddo, I noticed something was up when I asked you to take a shower. What’s going on?”

Maybe you get some information from your child like, “well, I don’t know. I’m just busy. I’m doing my homework. I’ve got sports. I’m hungry. I just don’t have time for the shower.”  “Okay, I hear you. So do you think there’s anything about the shower itself that’s not working for you?”

“No, I don’t mind taking showers. I just I just don’t feel like I have time for it.” Then the parent might say something like, “I get it. I know you’re super busy with your schoolwork. You do have a big load of schoolwork this year and couple that with sports and everything else. And I know when you get home from sports, you’re super hungry. At the same time, it’s my job as your parent to make sure you clean your body. So I’m wondering what ideas you have about what we can do on those nights that you’re super busy and you’re tired and you’ve got a lot on your plate AND you need to clean your body?” It is a bit more nuanced than what I’m describing here, but I’m trying to give you a quick example.

Now we’re working collaboratively with our child to find a solution instead of dangling rewards and consequences. When we use the CPR® approach, what are we doing? We’re building those thinking skills like flexibility, frustration, tolerance, and problem-solving. We’re building that parent-child relationship. We’re working towards finding a solution that’s long-term, a solution that works for everyone. And hopefully, we’re reducing the nightly battle of taking a shower. 

So that’s just a super brief example of what CPS® can look like. The Bazooka Joe comic is an example of what it would look like if you’re using rewards and consequences. 

So again, I’m not saying they’re bad. We just want to be mindful and know that we have a choice in how we handle situations. I want you to take the time to think through and see what might be an option. Try it on and let me know what you think.

Here is a video version of this blog post.