I have been having parenting difficulties with my 5 year-old. He is an extremely sweet boy, but he is extremely strong-willed and he does not like going to school. This has been going on all year, but it has taken an extremely bad turn and he is becoming more physical (and more physically impossible) to battle with to make him go to school. Tuesday morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because our morning was the worst we had ever had together. I have even found myself having scary Mommy Dearest moments where I am yelling my head off at him and he is hitting me, screaming, and refusing to get in the car. I won’t go into all of the trauma, but I dreaded school mornings. He simply did not want to go to school and I did not know what to do. After a tearful talk with his teacher that day, I realized that something needed to change in our house.
Keep in mind that I tried everything that I could- getting him up earlier, eliminating distractions, and giving him warnings that it is nearing time to go, talking to him about what might be bothering him about school, frequent discussions with his teacher about behavior and what could be going on. You know, all the good stuff that the “experts” encourage. No matter what I did though, we were starting our mornings with tears and battles.
I came home on Tuesday feeling defeated. Was it something I did that caused this? Why was I letting my temper get the best of me? Did I fail in disciplining him?
I picked up a book that I got from the library about parenting strong-willed children entitled, “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.” I sat down and poured a cup of coffee and read, and read, and read. I got excited in that hour about all that I could do as a parent. I realized that I didn’t have to be a negative mom, I could be a positive parent. The book was filled with tips on positive parenting and how to create positive solutions for your children. The main focus was on creating a point system for good behavior and focusing on positive praise to get positive results.
Dr. Kazdin suggests implementing a chart in the home to award points to your child for the things you want them to do (in our case, go to school without a fight). His system reminded me of another system that our reader, Jodi, had shared about using raffle tickets and points for completing chores in our awesome chore discussion. Go back to that post and take a peek- her advice was right on par with the good doctor’s recommendations.
I piled the kids in the car and forked over a few bucks for raffle tickets and pumped up the program to my son. It was recommended, in the book that I read, to throw in some theater or use your cheerleader voice (depending on what kind of person you were in high school, I guess)
Me: Ethan, We are going to try something NEW!
Ethan: (suspiciously) What kind of new thing?
Me: We are going to get TICKETS for doing GREAT stuff and you can EARN AWESOME THINGS for going to school and doing your chores.
Ethan: (still suspicious) What kind of things?
Me: Oh, whatever kinds of things you like…games, movies, ice cream…
Ethan: I like Wii games
Me: Well, that might be something you could work towards, but um, those are a lot of money…But we can TRY! Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah! Gooooo Team!
That is all it took to get him on board. We sat down and put together a list of activities that I wanted him to do around the house and a list of his rewards. We used a recycled coffee container for official ticket storage and worked all day the next day on putting together a fabulous chart of activities that he could do.
Ethan’s chart is a picture chart, since he is not reading just yet. I pulled all of the images from Microsoft’s clip art collection. Ethan picked each of the pictures and we cut them out, mounted them on cardboard and wrote number values in the corners of each picture. I have to say, we were both pretty proud with the finished product.
Ethan has one page of things he has to do to earn tickets and two pages of awesome rewards. We have them hanging on the refrigerator and he has been checking it and counting tickets like nuts for the past two days.
Going to School Nicely- 3 tickets
Make My Bed- 1 ticket
Put breakfast dishes in the sink- 1 ticket
Pick up toys before bed- 3 tickets
Go to Bed Nicely- 1 ticket
Feed the cat- 1 ticket
Help Mommy With Laundry- 3 tickets
Get to Read an Extra Book- 5 tickets
Go to the Library- 10 tickets
Pick What to Eat for Dinner- 10 tickets
Get a Movie- 10 tickets
Play a Game With Mom or Dad- 10 tickets
Rent a Video Game- 20 tickets
1 Hour of Computer Time- 25 tickets
Pick and Make a Snack With Mommy- 25 tickets
Go to the Dollar Movie- 30 tickets
Stay up 1 Hour Late- 35 tickets
Get Ice Cream- 35 tickets
Go Bowling- 100 tickets
Wii or Leapster Game- 200 tickets
Go to the Dinosaur Museum- 200 tickets
In the book, they encourage you to not take away points, but tell your child that it is fine if they don’t want to do A, B, or C, but they will not get the points they need to get rewards. The book also reviews other forms of punishment, like time-outs and how to make them effective when disciplining your child. There is also an entire system of practicing what you need your child to do (basically acting out the parts of what you want to occur), praising your child for the pretend scenarios, then having them really do, and then rewarding them with points and praise that involve a hug, a high-five, or a pat on the back.
If you are struggling with your child as I have been, you might want to check out the
book! The Appendix of the book has a chart divided between age groups for activities that you could add to your charts and fun rewards that your child can earn.
What I truly mean to say though is thank you for all of your invaluable comments. I try to help be a source of encouragement over here, but your systems and thoughtful discussions are such a great encouragement to me as well! Big thanks to Jodi for her thoughtful solution- I hope this will help someone else out there. From one Mommy Dearest to another!
Sound Off: Do you use charts in your house? How do you implement positive parenting in your house?