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 every child who enters the program ends up being a TK. If they didn’t, the parents of the kids who didn’t make their goals would raise Cain (the fault, you see, would lie with the teachers, not their kids), and principals would cave, and every kid would get the award anyway. So it would seem that like trophies given to every child on the last-place soccer team, the TK awards are meaningless, however well-intentioned. (Do ya think I’m maybe gonna get some angry letters?)
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.”