If the frequency of my own sightings is any indication, those "My Child Is a Terrific Kid!" bumper stickers are fast becoming ubiquitous. Curious, I did some investigating and discovered that Terrific Kids is a school-based character-building program sponsored by Kiwanis. Terrific is an acronym that stands for Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Respectful, Responsible, Inclusive, Friendly, Inquisitive and Capable.
According to the website at www.kiwaniskids.org/, children work with their classroom teachers to establish goals to improve behavior, peer relationships, attendance, or school work. When those goals are met, the kids get TK pins, a pizza party, certificates, and their parents get the bumper sticker.
All well and good, but the teachers I spoke with told me that nearly every child who enters the program ends up being a TK. So it would seem that like trophies given to every child on the last-place soccer team, the TK awards are relatively meaningless, however well-intentioned.
This does not mean, however, that there are no truly terrific kids out there. The problem is that this program, because it awards everyone, doesn't recognize truly outstanding children. To right this wrong, I've developed a 15-item inventory -- the Rosemond Truly Terrific Kid Scale -- that will tell parents whether their child is truly terrific or not, and if not, needs some work. (Originally, the scale consisted of 20 items, but newspaper space considerations required some trimming.)
Any given child begins with 15 points. One point is deducted for every item which is not almost always true of the child. Any child who ends up with 14 or 15 points is a Truly Terrific Kid. A score of 11 to 13, inclusive, means the child is sorta, kinda terrific; 9 or 10 points reflects less than terrific; and 8 or below is not terrific at all (in need of lots of work). So, if you dare (each item begins with "The child"):
1. Eats whatever foods he is served, without complaint.
2. Does his homework without being told, does at least 90 percent without asking for help, and does his best in school.
3. Looks an adult in the face when spoken to and responds appropriately.
4. Asks for something by saying "Please."
5. Receives something by saying "Thank you."
6. Declines something by saying "No, thank you."
7. Addresses adults as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. as opposed to using their first names.
8. Obeys classroom and playground rules at all times.
9. Neither creates nor participates in conflicts with or between peers.
10. Knows not to enter an elevator until everyone who so desires has exited.
11. Does not use a cellphone, for talking or texting, in social situations.
12. Goes to bed, in his own bed, without complaint and goes quickly off to sleep.
13. Does not often create or participate in sibling conflict (If an only child, this point is automatically earned).
14. Accepts responsibility when confronted with misdeeds.
15. Does not interrupt adult conversations, including phone conversations.
It should be obvious that my TTK scale reflects as much on parents as it does on a child. If you/your child did well, you certainly deserve a bumper sticker, but you'll have to take care of that yourself. Perhaps it could read "I Must Be a Truly Terrific Parent, Because a Completely Objective Assessment by a Truly Terrific Parenting Expert Reveals that I Have a Truly Terrific Kid!"
You can edit that if you don't have a long enough bumper. Just don't take out the part about me.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.