Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Caught Being Cool - a positive chart for children

I wanted to share these basic 'charts', to give ideas to parents who would like to balance out the discipline in their relationships with their child. You can easily make your own, we have one on A5 paper so it's big enough for me to write on. The following PDF's are printable and you can print them to a size you would like. Our child likes to colour the chart in so we often just do the outline of her name ourselves and she decorates it. Some parents may not have time, so charts for printing yourself, follow below.

I need to point out these are NOT REWARD CHARTS!! We don't do reward charts in this house anymore and I'll explain why, in a bit. This chart was made because one night I realised I was feeling sad about all the times I felt I was on my daughter's case to do stuff or stop doing stuff. I could tell she was getting down about it too and all that negative responding was becoming a self fulfilling prophecy - she was starting to believe she was 'bad'.

I don't really like the terms "bad" or "good". I guess because the definition is in the eye of the beholder really, and I like to discipline the behaviour, not the child (if that makes sense). But alas, those labels are hard to avoid sometimes and they quickly pin these labels to behaviour when teachers and peers use the words in certain contexts. Anyway, one day Miss 6 announced she hated herself because she's bad all the time. I felt so sad, I had to do something! A friend suggested writing things down that we thought were good, to help balance it out, (more about that soon). We all know that pointing out things we like about others gives them a boost - in the same instance, when we point out negative stuff, it tends to make the person believe it after enough time. I think this idea would be great for adults in our lives too (although notes would be better or a chart might feel a little patronising)!!

In regards to reward charts, we don't do them because the flipside of them is that kids can begin to believe that your love is dependent on certain behaviour, it's why we don't use time out's either. We do use the bedroom (or elsewhere) for violent outbursts, but we don't label it "time out", we just remind the child we are removing them for our safety and they're welcome to join us when they're calm and ready to talk about it without yelling. Sometimes this involves having to lock the door to protect ourselves if they can't help coming back out before they're ready. So, things like sweets, rewards of special time spent with a parent, toys, stickers, etc, are all telling the child that they're not worth these things unless they are behaving a certain way. We believe that pocket money is given to teach good money skills and the child is worthy of it despite chore compliance. It also helps with those times you get asked 50 times a day for toys when out shopping. "Did you bring your own money dear?" We believe kids are worth treats and time spent with their parents despite non compliance. Of course, this doesn't mean you give pocket money or treats right after they've thrown cereal all over the floor - let's be sensible!

We now just ask Miss 6 to help out with a task. This is SO important in teaching kids that they are competent individuals who are an integral part of the family. They are valued and needed, and yes, they can achieve stuff. It helps them learn that when they help ease the load, parents often have some time to be able to spend with them (this needs to be pointed out) ie "could you please help unload the dishwasher so I can get dinner started, then when it's in the oven you could choose a quick game for us to play together". If they refuse, I find just pointing out your disappointment and clarifying that you won't have time to play or perhaps read that bedtime story later on, because of their choice, is enough to help them change their mind. Sometimes, when you ditch the rewards charts, it takes some time to help them recover from the desire to 'get' something every time. Sometimes we had to tell Miss 6 that she couldn't do xyz until the task was completed. She quickly learnt that doing said task meant time with Mummy later, or else life could get pretty boring for her.

Her confidence, maturity and empathy have all increased A LOT from using these techniques. I can't recommend highly enough, the book by Amy McCready entitled "If I Have To Tell You One More Time". She has great advice on how to stop the yelling, nagging etc, whilst getting what you need from your kids and keeping the bond intact.

The below charts don't have to be used forever. The charts are to help you show your kid that they can be awesome, when it's required. Over praising can result in kids who NEED validation for everything they do or say, you need to NOT use this chart for getting kids to do stuff. It's purely for balancing out the negative. So try and refrain from saying "if you don't do xyz, I won't be able to write it on the chart" or "what can you do to get on the chart". It turns it in to a reward system again. When they spontaneously do or say something awesome, you tell them how awesome it is and write it on the given day. Some days we have to write B.I.G so it looks like the day got filled up! Sometimes it's basic stuff like "remembered to wash hands", "washed hands when asked", "said sorry after doing xyz" or "ate politely". You really have to go looking for stuff as you want to BUILD ON IT. And build you will. It doesn't take long before kids like to sit in front of the chart and read all their awesomeness and just WANT to keep being awesome. It also takes the sting out of reprimanding when they don't make the best choices. I remind Miss 6 that she's awesome 90% of the time and that even adults get it wrong some times, I point her to the chart, which usually evokes an apology and some more awesome behaviour. Life is just getting better in this house now. Whatever you do, don't forget to fill in at least 5 things each day or your kid will be crushed! It's not hard to find 5 things, even if you're really pushing the boat out some days!

At the end of the week, we have a family night (we end the week on a night we can all be at home) and have a 10 minute hot chocolate and marshmallow session while we read out the COOL behaviour. Miss 6 LOVES it and it fuels her to keep it up. I think this is something that should be kept going, even as kids get older. The chart won't last forever, eventually we will use notes instead and bring them up at family meeting time (as well as continuing appropriate praise when said behaviour occurs).

We sincerely hope you enjoy the chart idea and it helps build self worth and esteem in your family too. If you want to read an excellent blog post about reward systems go to parentingfromscratch No More Stickers. Alfie Kohn gives some interesting insights also.

Click HERE to download this version
Add your child's name between the stars

Click HERE to download the flower version
Add your child's name between the flowers

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