Thursday, February 23, 2012

What To Do If Your Child Destroys the Chart

Tara left a comment asking what to do if there is a good chance your child will destroy the behavior chart when he gets angry. My response was long enough to be a post, because I just can't seem to give a short answer to any question and I thought that other people might have that same concern, so I'm putting my answer here.

When I had figured out what the different privileges and consequences would be on the chart, I sat down with all of the children who were going to be on the chart, and explained it to them. Along with laying out the consequences, we talked about what the rewards would be, and I asked them what sort of rewards they would like to be able to earn. When we were finished talking, I asked them questions to make sure they understood what I had told them, and I gave them one practice day where I would say, "When you are on the chart, you will _______ when you _______." to help them get used to the idea.

I have kids who have been known to have a COMPLETE MELTDOWN (screaming, kicking, throwing things, breaking things) when they get moved down the chart, especially when they do something to get moved directly to the bottom. And I knew that Ian was likely to try to destroy it the first time he got mad about it, so I talked to him about that situation BEFORE it happened, during a moment that he was calm. I decided what the consequences would be if he ripped the chart to pieces, told him what the consequences would be, and prepared myself to follow through if it happened. For Ian, the consequences would have been watching his younger siblings while I made a new chart, which would have been something he HATED, but for Joseph--my current Meltdown Child--if he destroys the chart, he will lose all privileges for an entire week (INCLUDING food, so he would get to eat oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables for a week).

I heard, early on in my parenting career, someone say something about NEVER telling your child you're going to do something unless you're really going to do it, and I have tried very hard to follow that advice. I HAVE followed through on tough consequences before, so my children knew I was serious when I laid out the chart-destroying consequences, and, so far, neither of them has done it (but I wouldn't be surprised if Joseph does sometime soon because he seems to be ITCHING to find out how far he can go/if I'll enforce the consequences). They've kicked the wall the chart is on and slapped it hard when they're moving their marker, but they haven't ripped it up.

There is an adjustment period whenever you start a behavior modification program; your child will test the limits and your patience while he tries to determine how serious you are about this, so, if you think it is a realistic possibility that he will destroy the chart, it is very likely that he WILL the first time he gets really mad about it. Since you know that is likely to happen, expect it, and figure out NOW what the consequences will be, and be prepared to stand by them. You could even have another chart already made so that, once he's calmed down, you can matter-of-factly put a new one up. It will help you hang in there, and him to realize that you're serious, if you just plan on having to replace the chart 10 or 15 times. The key is to do it CALMLY every time; if you can stay calm, it helps him get the message that YOU really are the person in charge, and you are planning on sticking to your guns.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crappy-Day-Present-Receiving Etiquette

In honor of today being the deadline for mailing your CDP Exchange package since I didn't notice that Monday was a no-mail holiday when I picked the date for the mailing deadline, I decided to do another informative Crappy Day Present post!

Please email me when you mail your exchange package and when you receive a package! Also, feel free to post about your package, and I will add a link to your post to my list of CDP example links.
Now that I have told you we have discussed when it is an appropriate time to open a Crappy Day Present (this was a VERY important post, so go read it if you haven't already!), I thought I would tell you we would discuss what is the polite thing to do when one RECEIVES a Crappy Day Present/Package.

I tend to respond to the receipt of a CDP the same way I respond whenever someone does something nice to me: I make sure to thank the person and try to let her know how much I appreciated her efforts on my behalf.

Disclaimer: This can be tricky if a CDP arrives in the midst of Extremely Crappy Circumstances because I might be a little overwhelmed at that particular moment, but I try to do these things at some point. Also, my method of communication varies, according to the kind of relationship I have with the sender and how chaotic life is at that moment, so pick the method of communication (a card, an email, a tweet, a phone call, etc...) that works best for your situation.

When I receive a CDPackage in the mail, as soon as I can, I let the sender know I received her package, (often) what a nice surprise it was, and how happy the package has made me JUST BY ARRIVING. I prefer to do this by writing a nice little card so that I can return the favor of receiving fun mail, but, if life is hectic, I will send an email instead, or sometimes I will send a brief email and, later, a longer, more detailed card.

Then, because I know that *I* enjoy hearing about it when someone opens a CDP I have agonized over given her, whenever I open a CDPresent, I like to write an email or call the person to tell her that I had been having a Crappy Day and remembered the present(s) she had sent me, and so I opened _______, and it was perfect/cheered me up because _______! (Sometimes the Crappiness of the days will make it so that I don't have a chance to email or call until I have opened 3 or 4 CDPs, in which case, I mention each thing I have opened and why I liked it.)

I do not feel OBLIGATED to reciprocate because I KNOW (one of the benefits of being the creator of this idea =)!) that Crappy Day Presents are given freely with no expectations or obligations, but since I ENJOY reciprocating, I will keep in mind that this person must like the CDP idea, or she wouldn't have used it, and, in the days/weeks/months following, I will distract myself from the loud children (and other irritating people) and endless laundry and cooking and cleaning mind-numbing aspects of life by thinking about what fun things I can send this person some day in the future to brighten some of HER Crappy Days.

Swistle brought up a point in a recent post (that isn't applicable in an EXCHANGE situation, but might apply for general CDP giving) that hadn't occurred to me because when I started doing this with my brick-and-mortar friends, we knew each other well enough that it wasn't an issue: that acting on generous impulses (such as sending someone a surprise CDP?) "...seems to set up situations where the recipient feels uncomfortable and/or burdened, and wonders if they should reciprocate, and feels awkward if they don't want to."

After I read that, I realized that *gasp of amazement!* you ladies might not know me well enough, so perhaps I should clarify: I sincerely hope that if I have, or do, send you a CDP, you will not feel uncomfortable or burdened!! I have no expectation of reciprocation; only a hope that it will brighten your day and make a few upcoming Crappy Days a little more bearable!! Think of it as one of those random someone-paid-your-toll-charge or someone-paid-for-your-dinner things (except that I can't be that anonymous because it might be even more worrisome to receive a package and have no idea from whom it came), and pass it on if you'd like to, but don't worry about it if you don't.

Does anyone have any ideas on what we can do with the giving of Crappy Day Presents so that it doesn't make the recipient feel uncomfortable or burdened?

Well, that's all that I could think of concerning CDP-Receiving Etiquette! Did I miss anything?

The Rules For the Opening of Crappy Day Presents

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Example of a Crappy Day Package #9

To halt my slide into a deep pit of despair Because yesterday quickly turned into a Very Crappy Day, I opened a CDPackage from a Lovely, Lovely Person* that I had been saving for a Major Crappy Day. That package was JUST what I needed!

Four mysterious packets and a sweet note

The purple packet contained:
Adorable elephant buttons and a cute, little notebook!
The green packet contained:
Bright, colorful, soft YARN!!! (I can never have too much yarn despite what others may think!)
The blue and orange packets contained:
Pretty, sturdy scissors, the PERFECT size to keep in a bag with a project-in-progress!

A Brittany crochet hook (SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!) and a DELICIOUS-smelling bar of handmade soap (which smells very similar to one of my favorite lotions AND was very timely as I am halfway finished with the last wonderful bar of handmade soap I received)
I have to say: it was the Brittany crochet hook that was the final nail in the coffin of that potent Crappy Day. I have longed-for admired these hooks for YEARS because they are so BEAUTIFUL...

...but it seemed too extravagant  to buy any since I have an obscene adequate number of the standard, reliable metal hooks. So, every time that Crappy Day tried to rally its forces and drag me down again, I just smiled and thought, "A Lovely, Lovely person gave *me* a Brittany crochet hook!", and the crappiness just disappeared.

Thank you, Lovely Person! I was afraid there was no hope for yesterday, but YOU saved the day =)!

*I will be keeping Crappy Day Present senders anonymous so that the sender doesn't have to worry that Person Q is going to see what they (the sender) sent me and possibly feel bad that their (Person Q's) package was not as fabulous as mine ;-). But if you don't worry as much as I do aren't worried about that, you are welcome to claim your package in the comments!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Rules For the Opening of Crappy Day Presents

It has come to my attention, by comments I have read here and there, that I was not clear enough in my original CDP post about the appropriate circumstances under which one should open a Crappy Day Present.

I will try to clarify:
  • The most important rule, when it comes to opening a CDP, is: you do not have to meet various, mysterious, impossible-to-meet criteria of worthiness or deserving, nor do you have to register the level of Crappiness of your day at a certain point on the Global Crappiness scale, before you can open a Crappy Day Present.
    • I can honestly tell you that, if you are in possession of a CDP, you ARE worthy AND deserving as evidenced by the fact that somebody cares about you enough to make sure you have that CDP in your possession.
    • If YOU are feeling Crappy (wanting to cry and/or wanting to dive into a vat of expensive ice cream/chocolate/alcohol is often a clue), it DOES NOT MATTER if a DIFFERENT person wouldn't feel Crappy under the same circumstances; we are talking about YOU! The entire purpose behind the Crappy Day Present is to make YOU feel loved and supported when you could use some extra love and support.
      • Note: I can understand the non-opening of a Crappy Day Present in the interest of not running out, since I have that worry myself from time to time am an understanding sort of person, but, unless you are down to 1 or 2, YOU ARE NOT CLOSE TO RUNNING OUT, but, even though life may look a little bleaker when you run out of Crappy Day Insurance so, CDPs were meant to be opened.
  • You do not need to justify your decision to open a CDP, at ANY time, no matter the circumstances. It doesn't matter if you opened one yesterday, or if you opened one 5 minutes ago...if it will cheer you up to open a CDP, OPEN A CDP!
  • Unless the names of any of the members of your household are on the present, you are not by any stretch of the imagination expected to share, and, I dare say, obligatory sharing of CDPs is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED.
  • It really is this simple: someone loves and/or cares about you and wants to help support you and/or cheer you up when you are having a rough day, so allow yourself to be loved and supported by opening a CDP she has given you, if you think it will help.
I think that should do. Let me know if I've left anything out =).

As I was working on this post last night, God showed His sense of humor in my life, YET AGAIN, by giving me a new, pertinent, real-life example of an appropriate time to open a Crappy Day Present:
When you are chewing gum (the good-for-your-teeth kind, no less), and you find yourself wondering why your gum is a bit crunchier than usual, and you then realize that either your tooth has broken or one of your fillings has just come out, and the next day is Friday, and you know that your dentist doesn't go to the office one day per week, and you can't remember if Friday is that day, and you wonder if the dentist will be able to work on your tooth anyway since your cold has turned into a sinus infection, AND you realize that your babysitter is going to be busy tomorrow morning even if you DO manage to procure an appointment, and you are terrified a little concerned about the amounts of pain discomfort and money that are going to be involved in fixing your tooth, this is a PRIME example of an appropriate time to open a CDP.

Crappy-Day-Present-Receiving Etiquette

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Flexible, Effective Behavior Chart, Part 2 (Much Shorter Than Part 1!)

Part 1 can be found here.

After we used our behavior ladder for a few weeks, I noticed that sometimes I would tell a child to go move up, and they couldn't go anywhere because they were at the top of the chart. I didn't want anyone to miss out on the benefits of good behavior, so I started giving out coupons that said: "'Child's Name', go move yourself up one!" for them to use sometime when they wanted to move up. Then we decided that you could trade in 5 "Move yourself up one" coupons for a "Free Extra Chore" coupon that could be redeemed when someone landed on an extra chore space.

To continue with the learning theme, I looked on the internet and found "play money":  scroll down to find the money with the silhouettes.  Using some computer program (it may have been a word processing document), I copied the 1's, 5's, 10's, and 20's, copied each of my children's faces (the faces assure there will be no problems with anyone stealing anyone else's family dollars) from a digital photo, pasted each face on all of the different denominations of money, and then printed out and laminated the sheets of "money". These "family dollars" replaced our "move up" coupons.  I wanted "play" money because I knew it had numbers on it, and I thought we could work on counting, exchanging, saving vs. spending, limited resources vs. endless wants, etc. (If you don't want to print something out, you could also use 3x5 cards and write numbers in the corners and the child's name in the middle.) Each child is responsible to know where their family dollars are, to encourage learning responsibility/taking care of things that are important to you.

Next, we (the children and I) made a list of different rewards that could be earned by spending family dollars.  At various times, our list has contained:


*Cool pencil/pen (found in the dollar section of some store) 3

*Mummy Kit 4

Free Regular Chore 4

*Balsa wood glider 5

Free Extra Chore 5

*Wagon Kit 6

*Fire extinguisher 10

Art pad 15

Set of "artist" colored pencils 15

Plastic candy cane filled with Hershey's kisses 15

Ice Cream (I fill up 2-cup plastic containers with ice cream and keep them in the freezer for this purpose) 15

How to draw a dragon kit 20
A Day Off (of schoolwork) 30 

A Date with Mom or Dad (usually involves a trip to a certain pizza place that involves games and tokens, but can also be going out to lunch or to get ice cream from the ice cream place) 30

Remote Controlled Helicopter 50

*These were little things I had picked up for the kids, but I had been saving them until I figured out a good way to use them as motivators.

To come up with the ideas for the prizes (other than the toys I already had), I asked the kids what kinds of things they would like to earn, and then we had a lesson on compromising/negotiating as we decided how many family dollars each thing would be worth.

I keep the prizes on a certain cabinet we call the "prize basket" (because the prizes started out in a basket, and then....overflowed).  Something I LOVE about the prize basket is that it gives me a chance to buy things for the kids that they want, that I wouldn't normally buy because I don't want them to think they can have everything they want:  I can put those sorts of things in the prize basket and they can earn them!  This is especially convenient when you want to reward a certain child for consistent good behavior, but you don't want to listen to complaints about parents playing favorites:  the child with good behavior will have the family dollars to buy the prize you picked out for him.  My kids have become accustomed to me buying prizes for the prize basket that can only be bought by a certain child;  I try to make sure I do that more or less equally among all the children.  The prize basket is also a good way to provide children, who generally don't have a lot of real money, with an opportunity to get things for their siblings:  I made a rule that prizes are 50% off if they are bought to be a present for someone else (you would think they would have figured out how to milk this system, but they haven't).

Any questions?

What To Do If Your Child Destroys the Chart

A Flexible, Effective Behavior Chart, Part 1

WARNING:  This is going to be a long post, so, if you do not need a behavior chart at your house, get on your knees and say a SINCERE prayer of gratitude to your Maker you may not find this to be very interesting. 

So that you do not start to fear that this post is never-ending
Here is a brief outline of this post:

*Background on why/how this behavior chart came to be
*Benefits/drawbacks to this system
*Explanation of how the chart works, along with a detailed example of the chart I use at my house
*How to set up this chart so that it can be used at your house
*My rationale for using this system with my children

For YEARS (and YEARS are VERY LONG when you are in a situation like this) I had tried to find some way to get a grip on Ian's behavior.  I had read so many parenting books and tried their ideas but I had not had much success.  He would do something--scream at me, refuse to obey, break something on purpose--and I would know that there needed to be a consequence for his actions, but it was so hard to figure out what it should be, ESPECIALLY since I was in the middle of trying to survive his behavior while I was trying to figure all of this out.  Ian was not easily motivated, and, believe me, I TRIED!  When he was about *7* years old...

(Moment of silence for the HORROR of living for SEVEN YEARS with a child whose behavior was so severe that I needed to create my own behavior chart because nothing The Professionals, who did this sort of thing for a living, had come up with was working)

...I had a burst of inspiration straight from Heaven (Thank you, God, for finally answering my many, MANY prayers!) (Okay, okay, in God's defense, Ian may not have been ready for this system until the very time I had this burst of inspiration in which case, Thank you, God for sending me a child who was nearly impossible to deal with for SEVEN YEARS), and this behavior ladder was born.  I worked out the snags in the idea, and we started using it IMMEDIATELY. 

I wrote an explanation for the people who asked me how our system worked because they wanted to try it at their house.  The explanation may look daunting, but I found the system to be very logical and easy-to-understand/use once I started using it.  In the beginning, the hardest part for me was remembering how many spaces up or down each behavior was worth, but, since I kept lists posted next to the chart, I referred to those until I had it memorized. 

I think the reason this system works so well* for Ian is that it gives him constant, immediate feedback for his behavior, good or bad, while he is at home (which is most of the time....but I did make a portable chart for those times we need to be away from home)
*When I say "works so well" I do not mean to imply that there were sudden, miraculous changes to his behavior.  The system gave *me* the solution I needed to the "He just did something, and I know there should be a consequence, but what should it be?" problem, which GREATLY reduced my feelings of helplessness/hopelessness, and provided him, and the other children, with a consistent response to their behavior.

Although none of his siblings have the exact same challenges Ian has, most of them have been hard-headed obstinate stubborn-as-mules strong-willed as well, and this system works well for them also.  And a nice thing, if you should be so lucky as to have a child who is not determined to make you lose your mind or die trying consistently makes GOOD choices, is that this system allows for generous rewarding of good behavior too!

I enjoy having a concrete way to immediately respond to positive and negative behaviors. It is wonderful to be able to say: "Wow! That was really kind of you to help your sister; go move yourself up one!" or "I really appreciate you doing your chore without being asked; go move yourself up two!" or "That was rude and disrespectful; go move yourself down two." or "You didn't obey when I asked you to ______; go move yourself down three."

In my opinion, the biggest drawback to this system besides the fact that it is so very NECESSARY for some people is that it might not be effective until the child is 4-5 years old, and I remember being DESPERATE before Ian even turned 2 3.  Marie didn't really "get it" until she was about 6, but when Joseph was at the tail end of 4, he would look at his brothers and say, "Oh, you just disobeyed; now you have to move down 3!", so I started him then.  Plan on a child being 4-5 years old before he can start using this system, but, certainly: if you think he is ready before then, there's no harm in trying!

Here is my behavior modification chart and system.  Feel free to use it at your house or pass it along, but please mention where it came from in case my body and mind are taken over by zombies or aliens and I ever decide to get a Master's Degree or something and decide to use this as my Big, Ugly Project.

The basic idea is:  there is this ladder with different privileges on different spaces.  A person can enjoy any privileges that they are on or above (according to the rules of the household;  for example, a person can watch TV *IF* they have TV privileges AND their chores are done, etc...).  A person is moved up or down according to their behavior:  up for good choices, down for bad choices.  Except, if a person lands on an "extra chores" space, they must do a specific extra chore to get moved off of that space.

This is an example of a filled-in ladder.  You can easily personalize it for the needs of your family.

This is the chart that is used at my house.
24  Smiley face (Top of the chart, green)

23  Empty green space

            22  Empty green space

21  T.V. privileges (green)

20  Empty green

19  Empty green

18  Treats (green)

17  Empty green

16  Empty green

15  Computer (yellow)

14  Empty yellow

13  Playing with friends (yellow)

12  Playing outside (yellow)

11  Empty yellow

10  Empty yellow

9  Play with Toys (red)

8  Empty red

7  Empty red

6  Books (red)

5  *Food (red) (I put this here so that people wouldn’t be content to stay on “extra chores” forever; it seems like we always have a meal or snack right around the corner, so the children are more likely to be motivated to start moving back up quickly.)

4  Extra chores (Official bottom of the chart, red) (When a person lands on extra chores, that person MUST do an extra chore in order to move up; for any of the other spaces there are a variety of ways to move up.) 

3  Extra chores (red) (I have a little basket where I keep extra chores that need to be done;  whenever I think of some messy thing that is bothering me, I write it down on a little piece of paper and put it in the basket.  Examples:  washing the baseboards, washing windows, scrubbing the floor next to the kitchen cabinets with a washcloth, cleaning the always-nastydirty kids' bathroom, cleaning the mirrors in the house, washing walls, cleaning the microwave, using a disinfecting wipe to clean the light switches and doorknobs, cleaning the front of the refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, and oven, weeding, dusting, cleaning out the van, etc....all of those pesky little things that I never rarely seem to find time to do) (Because it is possible to lose your mind overseeing someone who is doing extra chores run out of extra chores to do, I decided that a person could also move off of an extra chore space by writing "I will treat my mother with respect" or "I will obey my parents" 10 times)

2  Extra chores (red) (I put these spaces under the official bottom of the chart to discourage fit throwing on those occasions that somebody does something to get sent directly to the “official” bottom; if they throw a huge fit about going to the bottom, they earn more extra chores. However, MORE THAN ONCE, someone has decided to just keep on moving down once they've reached space #1; when that happens, I start keeping a tally* of all of the additional move-downs they have earned because this is a WONDERFUL way to get some necessary extra housework done I think it's important for the children to be held accountable for their actions.)

1  Extra chores (red) (When one or more persons in your household are stubbornly insisting on camping-out on extra chores, this is a sign that you should, WITHOUT ADVANCED NOTICE, order pizza, or decide to have ice cream or freshly made cookies, for the next meal...or two.) (Oh, yes, I have!) 

*I have asked a child psychologist if it is better to send someone to their room where they (hopefully) will stop doing the behaviors that are getting them moved down in the heat of an angry fit, or if I should allow them to keep racking up consequences.  She said to let the child rack up consequences.
Current record for number of spaces someone has nose-dived off of the chart:  50. 5!0!  (That was a VERY. LONG. DAY.)  Someone missed Halloween that year because he hadn't earned his privileges back by then, although he was, slowly, working at it. 
*If your child is at the point where they REFUSE to follow the family rules and WILL. NOT. DO. ANYTHING., a different psychologist agreed that it's better to take the child off the chart than to let them get 20,000 tally marks. So, this is where you have to know your child and hope your instincts have something useful to say to you. In my experience, so far, this situation has only happened with one 13 year old child. If you find yourself in this situation, you have my DEEPEST sympathies.

*For “Food”, you can either say, “Eating is a privilege, and you are welcome to eat when you have that privilege”, or, if your child is like mine VERY hard-headed and you know it will be a month day or two before they decide to deal with the consequences of their choices:  “Choosing what you eat is a privilege, and you are welcome to have as much oatmeal, fruit, or vegetables (or some other healthy thing that isn’t your child’s favorite) until you have earned that privilege back.”

(You may have noticed that I quite enjoy color coding things, ahem.  I coded this chart with the traffic-light colors:  green for "go", yellow (which turned into orange because yellow was too light to be seen) for "watch out/slow down", and red for "stop".  I had seen the traffic-light colors used in behavior modification programs at some schools too.)

Lest you think it is complicated to make this chart:  to make my first chart, I took 2 sheets of paper (I used cardstock the next time), cut them in half the long way, used crayons (I used markers the next time) to draw 6 rectangles on each piece of paper, and then filled in the information in each rectangle.  I HIGHLY recommend laminating the ladder once you've tried it and think you are happy with what you have put in the spaces.  You can take it to an office supply store, or use laminating sheets, the covers that come with laminating sheets to keep the plastic from sticking to the machine, and your iron, set on low and inched up until you find the setting that will melt the laminating sheets.   

Each child chose a little shape out of my scrapbooking punchies in their family color *happy sigh* (but I have previously made arrows with their names on them) and I laminated those (plus extras because they do wear out after a while...*cough*some faster than others*cough*). I put a little poster putty on the back, and each child is in charge of moving his or her shape up or down when I tell them which way to go. This works well because as soon as a behavior happens, I say, “You just did _______”, "Go move yourself up" or "Go move yourself down", and then when they ask if they can do something, I ask if they have that privilege right now. If they refuse to move themself when asked, then I move them down an extra one. 

I quickly made a rule that once the movie starts/the treat comes out/the friend comes over to see if a child can play, the child cannot then say, "What can I do to move up, mom?" If it is time for the movie, etc., and a person doesn't have those privileges, that person is out of luck.
The chart is a little tall, although, if your littlest one won't tear it down, you could put yours a little lower than I have mine. We keep a stool by ours so everyone can reach.  I really wanted to keep it all in one column so the children would truly experience the visual of either going up or down; I was afraid that if I put it in two columns that benefit would be lost.

It is helpful to keep a list of chores that need to be done/things you would like a certain child to do, so that when someone wants to move up and they ask for suggestions, you don't have to stop and think of something, you can just look at your list. Also, depending on how often you think your kids will be moving, you can adjust the number of empty spaces you put in between each privilege. 8-year-old (at the time) son did quite a bit of moving, so he needed some empty spaces so that he wouldn't lose all of his privileges within the first 5 minutes of each day; the spaces gave him a moment to contemplate where he was heading before he lost everything.

You know the chart is working when people stomp around the house saying, “I want to tear that behavior chart up!” or "I hate that chart!", so rejoice when you start to hear those exclamations =)!  Comments like that did necessitate the announcement that anyone caught trying to destroy the chart would have to make a new chart (or watch siblings while I do it) and would lose every privilege for a week. As of yet, nobody has made that choice *KNOCK ON WOOD*.

I added the numbers to the side of the ladder so that we can work on math along with behavior modification =). When someone says, “Mom, I’m on 5 and I want to get to 18; how many do I have to move up?” I ask, “What is 18 take away 5?”

To decide what to put on your ladder:  think of the things your children like to do, or are constantly asking to do, and put those on your ladder, with the things that you prefer they don't do too much of at the top. (In my house, the kids would sit in front of the TV all day long if I would let them, so I put that at the top.)  If your children don’t read yet, draw a picture next to the word and talk with them about what the picture means.  As the children get older, you can put different privileges on your ladder.  (Oh yes, someone is 12 1/2 now and is still using this chart.)

Near the ladder, for easy reference, I put two full pieces of paper: one outlined in green with arrows on the sides pointing up and the other outlined in red with arrows on the sides pointing down.

The green list is where you think about all of the things you would like your children to do more often and write them down.

All of these things, except the last one, move you up one space at our house.  On our green paper we have:

Helping mom or siblings

Obeying quickly/cheerfully

Doing schoolwork (move up 1 for each page completed)

Doing chores (any chores; either their usual assigned daily chores or extra chores–this is a great chance to get all of those little things done that never seem to get done like wiping off the cabinets or cleaning the floorboards or scrubbing the kitchen floor next to the counters.  Don’t forget to move people down for complaining while doing their chores so that they realize there is a difference between doing your chore without complaining and getting to move up one and whining and complaining the entire time which results in moving down two or three before you get to move up one at the end.)

Answering cheerfully

Being polite

Being kind

Reading to someone for 10 minutes

Practicing the Piano for 5 minutes

Exercising for 10 minutes

Doing chores (putting away dishes, feeding cats, etc) without being asked (moves you up 2)

The red list is where you think of the behaviors that are draining your energy all day long and rank them in order of importance for your family.

On our red paper we have (with the spaces you move down listed next to the behavior):

Whining/complaining (1)

Picking a fight (1)

Using bad language (i.e., name calling, using words like stupid) (1)

Speaking in a rude way to parents (2)

Disrespectful (2)
Talking back (2)

Disobeying a parent (3) (We had to make a distinction between DISobeying and NOT obeying and write them both on the list; people occasionally DISobey, but they often just sit there after being told to do something.)

Not obeying a parent (3)

Waking up baby (6)

Violence (with words or actions–basically losing control of yourself when you are angry and either pushing/hitting/pinching or screaming/saying mean things to someone) (bottom)

Lying (bottom)

*I have, at times, changed the items on each list and how much they are worth.  This is part of the FLEXIBILITY of this system;  if something isn't working quite as well as you would like, adjust it and see what happens.

I have tried to set up this ladder to be a real learning experience for my children.  I want them to understand that every choice has a consequence.  I want them to experience what it is like to make so many good choices and be moving up in the world and then to make one really bad choice and lose everything they have worked so hard for, but then be able to take a deep breath, deal with the consequences, and start working their way up again.  I want them to stop and think about their choices and the consequences they will experience before they decide how they are going to react to a situation (for example, where they are on the chart, which privilege they want to enjoy, and how they are going to respond to their brother who is irritating them).  I want them to practice saving and spending and deciding which of a multitude of good choices they are going to choose*.

*Saving and spending is addressed in Part 2.

What To Do If Your Child Destroys the Chart