Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Earning our Ears - Turning "Me" into "We"

One of the more common challenges on a trip to Disney can be the “me” syndrome.  It’s all about “me”!
I want to ride this; I don’t want to ride that.  I don’t want to wait in line; I don’t want to sit next to my sister.  I want to buy that, and that and that.   I want to do it all and have it all now!

It is easy to get caught up in the “me” syndrome in our immediate gratification society.  But, here is a secret…. A trip to Disney can be a valuable lesson in compromise, respect and selfless behavior.   Yes, it is true.  It’s a little thing called sharing the Disney Magic, or what my family calls Earning our Ears.

Earning our Ears is similar to the positive reinforcement method used by teachers called Caught Being Good. The concept is fairly easy.  When someone is caught doing something selfless, considerate, and from the heart, they are sharing the Disney Magic.  They are acting like our Pal Mickey, and that is why we call it Earning our Ears.

What are examples of Earning our Ears?  
  • We go on a ride our mom and dad want to ride (but we don’t want to) without complaining.
  • We share a bite of our Mickey bar with our brother.
  • We don’t whine when we have to wait in line. Instead we find games to entertain ourselves.
  • We let a shorter child stand in front of us so they can see the parade.
You get the idea.

How do you recognize these acts and reinforce this behavior? 

First, it is up to your parenting style.  For some, a kind word and simple acknowledgement of the act will work.  “Way to go for Earning your Ears!”  For others, a special item used to recognize the good deed can help.  Here are a few ideas:
Need something inexpensive and easy?  Stickers are a way to say “good job!”  Buy them at the store or save the extras you get from Cast Members during your stay.  When someone is caught Earning their Ears, pull out a sticker, talk about what they did and how great it feels to make someone else smile.

Are you crafty?  Consider a craft where you can add beads to a necklace or a pin.  The beads can spell out something or be used to earn their way up to a special treat like a set of Mouse Ears.  Then they literally have “Earned their Ears.”  

Do your kids have an interest in lanyards and pins?  Buy a lanyard and some pins either before the trip online, in the store or once you get to the parks.  Give them the lanyard and explain that they might earn a pin if they are caught doing something selfless to show they know what the Disney Magic is all about.

The key is to discuss what being selfless is, what respect is and how the feeling inside of us is the best gift of all.  That is what Earning your Ears is all about.  Villains may try to come along and steal the Disney Magic.  They may try to keep us from Earning our Ears.  But it is up to us to keep those Villains at bay and keep the Magic going, just like Mickey.

And don’t forget that the best way to teach Disney Magic is by showing it in our own actions.   The pins, the beads, the stickers are all just ways to help reinforce the behavior if you feel you need something extra.    But soon, the reward for everyone will be the feeling deep down inside, the Disney Magic that builds up in the heart and can’t help but burst out.
In the words of Samuel Johnson,
Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice.
Now go Earn your Ears!
PS - If the villains still show up, it might just be time for a nap.

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