Monday, March 28, 2011

Off The Charts!!

One of the tools that I have found helpful in parenting little ones is using charts.  Sometimes they are handmade on a piece of construction paper (in desperation perhaps?!), sometimes they are ones I have bought at learning stores.  Sometimes the boxes are filled with stickers, other times I may just draw a star.  But I have found that the visual aspect of charts is helpful to my children, and the emotional aspect of positive reinforcement really helps out, especially in times that I find myself having to discipline often.

I really do believe kids go through "stages" and often that's when I'll pull out a chart!! A month or two ago Trev was all of a sudden challenging me far more often than usual.  I usually don't have to discipline him all that much (well, at least not for defiance - his troubles often involve being too rambunctious!), but boy, were we going head to head for a few days there!  So I pulled out my little charts and animal stickers.  I rewarded him when he was "caught being good" or made a good choice without having to be forced.  He earned a doughnut date with mom when he filled up his chart of 20 little stickers, and honestly we turned a big corner and got over that little slump!  He was so excited!

For the past couple years Madi has been a relatively obedient child.  But during her toddler years, let me tell you, that girl had a will of iron!  When she would go through particularly strong willed phases or be temper tantrum prone and I felt like all I was doing all day was disciplining (anyone else been there? no fun!) I would make a chart with the same sort of idea - if she made good choices or was caught being good she could put a sticker on her chart or I would draw happy faces or stars on it.  I would hang it on the refrigerator where she could see it and it really did help during those rougher weeks.  One particular memory that stands out is when she really pulled it together and filled up a chart, and Jimmy surprised her and took her on a Daddy-Daughter date to Downtown Disney to ride the paddle-boats.  It was a couple years ago and she still talks about that time with him!

A few weeks ago I pulled out the charts again, with a different twist.  I knew spring break was coming up and that we would be heading to Disney a couple of times.  Both Madi and Trev have really gotten into collecting the Disney pins, and I thought that would be a good motivation for filling up charts.  I made them each two charts, one labeled Behavior and one labeled Reading.  On the behavior chart, same rules as always applied - they would get a sticker if they were caught doing something good or making a good choice without prodding from me.  As for their reading chart, Trevor got a sticker for every book I read to him, Madi got a sticker for every book she read on her own.  I told them I would give them a bit of allowance (something we haven't done before) when they filled up their charts and they could put the money in their piggy banks and use it on spring break to put towards a pin.

This turned into a really fun challenge for them! Both of them ended up filling up several charts.  I saw lots and lots of great behavior, agreeable attitudes, and quick obedience.  Madi read dozens of books, and Trev eagerly sat with me for reading time.  I really didn't give them all that much allowance - $1 when they got 20 stickers on the behavior chart,  and $2 when they got 20 stickers on the reading chart (10 cents a book).  However, when spring break rolled around they each had about enough to buy a new pin for their lanyards, and they both felt a sense of accomplishment for earning it.

Another thing I enjoyed about this is that it made me intentionally praise them when they chose to act in an honorable way, which not only made them feel proud of themselves, but helped me positively reinforce the kind of behavior that pleases God and helps our family to get along as we should.  Using charts creates great dialogue about these issues because when I tell them they are getting a sticker, I explain to them why and how their choice pleased God and our family. And of course, being an avid reader, I always like to praise them for spending time reading books as an activity!

I share this for those of you out there with little ones (or kids of any age for that matter!) because it may be a tool you want to use periodically either as a motivation to earn something (be it a doughnut date or opportunity to do something they want to do or allowance), or even if it's just for the visual reinforcement to see that they did and can make good choices or be productive during the day.  It gives them the satisfaction of a job well done.

And who knows, you may enjoy a week or two where their behavior is simply off the charts!!!  :)

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