Dr. Wendy Walsh: Yesterday, my second grader came home from school with a whopping announcement: The principal at her school had called an assembly to announce (among other things) that from this day forward, Silly Bandz were banned from school.
For those in a zip code where kids aren't crazed about the trend, Silly Bandz are brightly colored rubber bands that kids wear on their wrists like bracelets. The thing that makes them "silly" is that when you take one off and lay it on a table, it forms a unique shape. And Silly Bandz come in every shape imaginable, from animals designed to raise environmental awareness to Mattel and Nickelodeon characters to everything Justin Bieber. They are cheap -- $5.99 for a pack of 24 -- and fun to collect and trade.
The shocking dinner-table announcement was followed up with a retort from my middle schooler. "Yeah, at my school, only seventh and eighth graders are allowed to wear them. Sixth graders have lost the privilege." Apparently, kids are flinging them in other kids' eyes at middle school, and at the elementary-school level, the coveted items have been sources of conflict and theft.
The news was only dismal for me because I thought I had found a super affordable way to reward good behavior. Having avoided or participated in expensive toy crazes in the past -- Littlest Pet Shop, Polly Pocket, Kooky Pens and the mother of all overpriced collectables, American Girl dolls -- I'd found Silly Bandz to be the perfect recession solution. My kids will clean their rooms, brush their teeth AND take out the trash for the price of only one Silly Bandz -- 25 cents.
For those who question giving positive rewards at all, please know that I prefer to water what I want to grow, not the weeds. So I don't give a whole lot of attention to bad behavior unless it encroaches on someone else's rights. My third grader once read a hundred chapter books for an American Girl doll! In my house, nothing comes free except on birthdays and Christmas. They must earn everything, and it's amazing what kind of labor I can get for one iTunes song!
When I posted the news of the Silly Bandz ban on Facebook, I heard parents around the country complain like it was a human rights violation. Some parents thought the school administration could use the bracelets as a way to teach peacekeeping and conflict-resolution skills. Others thought schools should be using them as a reward. Still others thought it was a violation of freedom of expression.
In my opinion, school administrators have enough things to worry about besides some piece of rubber distracting kids from their work. Ban away, if it's cutting into academics, I say. As for my 7-year-old, this morning I watched her hide a wristful of the neon contraband under a long-sleeved shirt. It's not my rule. It's the school's rule. And today she'll get to learn the consequences of not following school rules. Silly Bandz just might earn her a not-so-silly stint picking up trash at recess. And the school has every right to do that.