A behavior chart for ME
Behavior charts are one of those things that I found wholly unimpressive before I was an Actual Parent. Back when I was just a Potential Parent, or maybe you prefer A Parent In Theory Only, I thought most complicated stuff like that - charts, reward systems, overly detailed Time Out rules - were silly. More specifically, they were only for BAD parents. Parents who could not control their children. Parents who COULD control their children did this with merely A Look, A Voice, or, in dire times, perhaps a subtle arm yank (combined with A Look or A Voice, of course.)
I have now been an Actual Parent - a Parent In Practice Most Definitely -a little over five years, enough time for the universe to do some major work on humbling me. I'd say there's still much to do, but in the Discipline Department I am well and thoroughly broken (AS YOU KNOW.) My arsenal of Looks, Voices, and Arm Yanks are terribly ineffective with a certain Jackson Cheung. I feel a tiny bit better knowing that they work (mostly) on his sister, but I just haven't been able to come up with a good system for JACK. Add to that the fact that Phillip has even fewer Looks and Voices and is, in general, a much nicer and more patient person than me ANYWAY, we are lost. Our Lostness led to a Okay, We Need To Change It Up discussion last night, which, in conjunction with a phone call to my mother, who knows about these things, led to The Behavior Chart.
SO. Our struggles with Master Cheung are as follows:
- Every instruction, every request, every direction, EVERY SENTENCE is met with some kind of Talk Back. Sometimes sassy, sometimes genuine, always irritating. I'd say 10% is out and out worth a year in military school, 10% is justified, and the rest is just sort of borderline disrespectful/rude/genuinely inquisitive, so you're not entirely sure how to react. Was he doing it on purpose? Did he REALIZE that was rude? Do I get angry or do I patiently teach? A lot of times he's not being BAD, he's NEGOTIATING, but MY GOD ENOUGH WITH THE NEGOTIATING JUST DO I WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!
- He's getting bossier and snippier with Molly. Frequent thing I say: "You are not the boss of Molly!" Another frequent thing I say: "Molly, you don't have to do what Jack tells you to do!"
- He often gets out of control. Yet another place where we aren't sure how far to go. Sometimes he's just having FUN! But a lot of times he doesn't know when to stop. He roughhouses with his grandfathers and always pushes the limit. He ADORES Emma, but he can get rough and wild with her. He can get rowdy and silly and he'll stop for the two seconds it takes you to tell him to calm down, but then he'll go right back into it.
- He doesn't always seem to REALIZE that he's in trouble. And therefore doesn't ACT like he's in trouble. Frequent thing I say: "ACT LIKE YOU'RE IN TROUBLE!" Another frequent thing I say, "Is it a good time for you to be talking right now? NO IT IS NOT."
So he's not, like, DOING horrible things. It's more like he just doesn't stop, doesn't know when to stop, doesn't know how to be in the stopping... well, and then the times that he dumps water on Emma's face in the bath tub.
I was interested in charts because I think JACK is interested in charts. He's aware of this stuff now. He likes stickers. He can keep track of things. HE CAN SEE HOW HE IS DOING. This was a big factor for me in going the chart route. One glance at his chart will let him know what kind of day he's having and HOPEFULLY have an effect on how he acts. MAYBE?!
I googled and googled and googled and eventually went with this idea. That is a super detailed blog post, but I'll just sum it up real quick - our version, anyway.
Each kid (we're doing both kids - Molly doesn't really NEED it, but we don't want to single Jack out and it can't hurt) has a chart with six "cards". The original blog post called these "coins" and they translate into money, but I didn't want to go that route for various reasons. (Also I didn't want to cut out circles.) So I bought those foam sheets at the dollar store and made cards with the kids' choice of character glued onto the fronts - superheroes for Jack, princesses for Molly. When they misbehave, I can tell them to give me a card. (Read the blog post if you're interested in the how and why and when details. I think we'll do most of what she says.) But they can also earn the card back with good behavior. At the end of the day, if they have all six cards still on their charts, they get a sticker. If they earn 10 stickers, they get a reward. In Jack's case it's a new iPad game, in Molly's it's a new dress up dress. (In the original blog post it's $10 for the kid to spend, so it's also a way to learn about money.) No sticker if I still have cards when they go to bed. If I have to take away ALL the cards, they can't earn them back for the rest of the day and ALL electronic privileges are taken away (iPad, TV, computer etc.). BUT the next day always starts with six cards.
(That last card is blank because it USED to be the Hulk and then Jack said, "But I don't like the Hulk! Where's BATMAN!" whereupon I felt like AN IDIOT because Batman is his FAVORITE and I FORGOT BATMAN. OOPS.) (Also, the cards are stuck on with Velcro. My experience with stick on Velcro is not awesome, but we'll see how it goes.)
It sounds really complicated, right? It felt that way when I was explaining it to Phillip. But I think it will help. It will help Jack because he likes a challenge, because he likes to win and hear he's doing well, it will be easy for him to see how he's doing during the day and hopefully that will translate into being more aware of his "status" with us, and he knows up front what the expectations and consequences are. He WANTS to "be a good boy". Also he's just a finicky chart sort of person and responds well to that sort of activity anyway.
It will help Phillip and me because we'll be on the same page, we'll immediately know what to take away, it helps us stay consistent, and it makes it easy for us to follow through. WE ARE NOT GOOD AT THOSE THINGS, INTERNET! We are wishy washy! We are constantly stymied and confused! We often don't agree! But we agree on this, it's workable for both of us, and in the moment we don't stand there trying to figure out what the appropriate punishment is.
It is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that I will come back here next week or the next and tell you that this was a terrible failure. I am open to that! But right now I feel pretty optimistic, if only because it's a PLAN and I always feel good when I have a PLAN.
Also! I am VERY MUCH AWARE of the potential ridiculousness of starting a fancy new behavior chart one week from the start of a Major Life Change AKA Kindergarten! But hey, this is when we talked about it, this is when I felt motivated to DO something, so it's done. We'll see how it goes.
I can't really figure out if I should be rolling my eyes at myself or patting myself on the back. It seems really OVERBOARD, you know? On the other hand, I think Phillip and I NEED overboard at this point! Honestly, it's as much for us as it is for the five-year-old. How embarrassing.
OKAY. I will report back.
P.S. I owe you a Princess Party post and there WILL be a Princess Party post and I bet you're as excited for that one as you were for this behavior chart post. FUN TIMES AT MIGHTYMAGGIE.COM!