Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh Behave!

I don't know about your kids, but mine are perfect!


I do think their behavior is better than some kids I see, but perfect?  Oh good goodness, no!

I think I got pretty lucky with my first child.  Bayne has never been much of a problem.  We have our basic back talk issues.  Tantrums here and there.  He can be rude at times.  When it comes to his sister, he is just plain nasty.  Mostly, he is a sweet boy, though.  He has so much love to give and he isn't shy about it if you are lucky enough to be one of those special people in his heart.  Parents at school love him.  He is gentle, not a fighter at all.  Quiet, thoughtful, patient, smart, good in school, and overall a pretty fantastic kid.

My second child, Aubrey, is a whole other story.  As most of you know she was born with some pretty special circumstances, so already her life is challenging.  Which I think makes her poor behavior that much harder on me because I want her to enjoy her life and I don't want it to be any harder than it already is.  I am pretty sure being female alone adds a whole new element of "fun" that I was unaware of having raised only a male.  Aubrey is basically a negative nelly.  Nothing is good enough, always a complaint, finds one bad thing about an otherwise fantastic situation and focuses on it intently ... and dramatically ... always with the drama.  Argumentative.  AttiTUDE.  Willful, doesn't even cover it.  Downright defiant at times.   There is no reasoning with her.  When her mind is set, it is set!  Oddly,  some of these are characteristics of hers that I also am proud of.  You can't ever accuse her of not knowing what she wants or swaying on an issue.  My hope is this will come in handy with peer pressure in the future, but I guess that will all depend on what her opinion is on all the temptations that will lie ahead of her in life.  The flip side of this is something equally as spectacular and big as her nutty side.  She couldn't be more beautiful.  She has a bright light inside that people see.  I have more random people come up and say different nice things about her.  She has an amazing smile that lets that light just reach out and touch you.  She is very bright, has a memory like an elephant, focused, strong, social, wise beyond her little years.  She says the FUNNIEST things.  She has a great sense of humor and whimsical spirit.  She is very creative and artistic.  Thoughtful and sentimental.  She truly does have a beautiful heart full of love and life and she is ready to share it with the world.

Here is a recent photo of my two beautiful children:

My Gentle Giant, Bayne and My Bright Light,  Aubrey
I know, I know .... how could they ever behave poorly?  What a horrible person I must be to even suggest that these kids could be bad!  You are just going to have to take my word for it and trust that most of my energy is going towards proving you right!  I would love to eat crow on this one :)

Lately these sweet little angels you see above have been pushing me to the end of my rope.  I have to admit, it's not all their fault.  I have been slacking in the consistent discipline area and I need to step it up.  We all know the drill ... it still works as an adult sometimes, too ... whine, whine, whine, whine, whine until the person breaks and get what you want.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  It was time for me to put and end the madness, so I broke out their Behavior Charts.  I made these great little reusable sticker charts years ago.


  We were using them for a long time, but sometimes I slack off and it gets forgotten.  This was one of those moments.  The basic idea is you earn a sticker when you do something good like clean up when asked, sharing. etc.  Then you could lose a sticker for bad behavior, like back talk, mean talk, hitting, etc.  If you get all your stickers on your chart you earn a prize.  Something small like hot wheels or ice cream.  This worked fine for us for years, but they are getting older and I felt like they needed to have their expectations written out for them.  I decided to add on to the existing chart and make the stakes much higher ... and the expectations, as well!

I am going to share with you the system that we came up with and at the end I will include a tutorial, so you can make your own.

When I was shopping at Joann I came across a cheap dry erase board (that does not dry erase once dry - FYI!) for $1.49 that was blank, but had a template for a reward chart.  I figured that would work perfectly.  I decided to add myself onto the list and make it a competition - each individual kid against me.  First let me show you an example of our chart, so you know what I am talking about.

Here is the chart in whole

I know my handwriting in horrendous!
Bayne's expectations:
homework, clean up toys, feed dog, no hitting (he only ever hits Aubrey), no mean talk to Aubrey,
read to me or Aubrey, say one nice thing to Aubrey, stretch (kid is do tight!), stay together when shopping,
listen and do!!, eat one veggie

Aubrey's expectations:
one page of homework (work from an abc or 123 workbook), read 10 flashcards, clean up toys,
no mean talk, no back talk, no screaming, drink one bottle of water, say one nice thing to Bayne,
stretching, stay together when shopping, Listen and do!!
I added brush her teeth in the morning to the chart, because she has been giving me grief over that.

Mom's expectations:
work out, drink two mason jars of water, no mean talk (I hate to admit it, but it happens!), walk the dog,
play out doors with the kids, play with Aubrey for 30 minutes uninterrupted any way she wants,
play with Bayne for 30 minutes uninterrupted any way he wants, stretching with the kids,
no drinking alcohol (been great for the waistline), read to the kids.
The last one says go to the beach once per week, but I changed it to floss.
Here is how it works.  Each day is a column and you have to earn a check mark.  If you do what is expected of you, you get a check mark in your column for that day.  Some things we have to wait until the end of the day to see if we are going to earn a check mark or not.  For example, both kids have to "Listen and Do".  I wait until they are going to bed to give them that one.  Other check marks can be given as the expectation is met, like "Stretching".  For each check mark you earn one sticker on your sticker chart (I don't have a sticker chart for myself, just the kids.  I just earn the check marks).

We have had a lot of fighting over the TV and the computer lately.  It drives me crazy.  I decided one way to deal with that is they have to "pay" for their tv and computer time.  10 minutes costs them 1 sticker.  If they don't have any stickers.  Tough cookies snookies!  Gotta earn it.

Then to make the stakes higher, as I mentioned, I decided rather than going all crazy at Christmas and buying them a bunch of toys (don't be sad, they have fabulous grandparents and Santa's still coming!) I am going to buy them a big toy, not just some $5 or less thing, but something substantial if they can beat me.  The goal is to have the least empty spaces on your chart.  I should add that there are some days that we have other plans that keep us from meeting some of the goals and on those special occasions I black out the empty spot, so that it does NOT count against us.  For example, some days I can't work out because of doctor appointments, dance class, etc, so it doesn't count against me.  I just fill in the empty space solid.  For Bayne, he has no homework on the weekends, so that doesn't count against him, fill in the empty space solid.  Some days we don't go shopping, so they can't earn a check mark for staying together - fill in the empty space solid.  Doesn't count against us.  You have to be honest, though ... no cheating!  ;)  I hope that makes sense.  Now that you know all the "rules" here is how the reward system for the expectation chart works:

At the end of the week I add up all of the empty spaces on the chart.  Spaces that are not blocked out and do not have check marks.  I tally the number and write it above their section.  If their number is lower than my number they earn a big prize.  That prize can be nice toy, a trip to Chuck E Cheese, bowling, a movie, a video game ... basically something under $40.  That's my max.  My hope is that this will motivate me to work really hard on my goals.  I think that in the long run this will make us all a happier, stronger family in so many ways.

Now both kids have the opportunity to be rewarded more than once for their behavior.  Immediately by getting a sticker per check mark, they feel proud when they have enough stickers to pay me for their time on the tv and computer, and cumulatively when they do good enough to beat mom and earn a big prize! 

We just completed our first week with the new chart system and there has been a big buzz around the chart at all times. Both really like reading what their expectations are and Aubrey loves to have me read it over and over.  I assume so she can memorize whatever my sloppy writing says. :) I made some new stickers to add to their collection with their new favorite tv characters.  They take a great deal of care deciding who is going to go on their chart.  Aubrey is making a "story" on hers.  Bayne loves paying me for his tv time.  Aubrey needs a little coaxing, but she does it.  It's really cute.  There are so many things I love about this chart.  For one, it makes me accountable.  It's hard!  Don't get me wrong, but laziness is how I got to the end of my rope and I am the adult, so someone has to be accountable and I guess that is me.  That's fine, I love a good challenge.  What's the fun of life with no challenge?  Another thing I love is at the end of the week we can look back and see which areas have the least check marks across the row, so we know which behavior we need to work on the most.  Plus, I cannot afford to be buying $40 worth of stuff every week (or more if they both beat me!), so it forces me to work hard every week to win.  We all have a reason to work and boy those kids REALLY want to beat Mom! 

And in case you were wondering, the kids won this week.  ;)  Gotta give them a taste of sweet victory and .... if I'm honest .... I cannot wait until Christmas and we have a whole week off from school for Bayne, so we need something new to play with.  I probably would have bought something anyway.  Shhhh!  They don't need to know that.  I bought us a nice new Lego set (I love legos!) and a little train for Aubrey.  Everyone seems pretty happy!  Wish ME luck next week!  It's going to be a tough one.

As promised here is my tutorial on how to make your own:

It is really easy.  All you need is:
- access to a computer with internet
- color printer
- photo paper is preferred, but regular paper can be used
- blank template for a reward chart - I got mine at Joann for $1.49
- poster board
- adhesive hook and latch tape
- A trip to Kinko's will also be in store to laminate all the pieces
- one or more crazy child/ren
- parent/s hanging by a string

To make the Sticker Chart:

Cut the poster board to be whatever size you want.  Keep in mind how many stickers you want them to be able to have on their board and the size of the space where you plan to hang it.  I think mine has 18 spaces for stickers.  I just used a random piece of poster board and that is what I ended up having room for.  I think around 20 spaces is adequate.  It costs 3 stickers per tv show or half hour of computer time, you need to allow them room to collect time/stickers.  You can choose to change the amount of time per sticker.  I considered doing 15 minutes per sticker, but that seemed like too much and counting by tens is easier for them to understand.  You can just hand write "Behavior Chart" or print out letters (as I did), cut them from magazines, or even leave it blank.  It's up to you.  Glue the letters onto the poster board if they are cut or printed out.  Set it aside to be taken to Kinko's or any place you can have things laminated.  If it is large like mine you will have to have them laminate it for you.  It cost under $5 for mine. **** AFTER IT IS LAMINATED **** cut squares of the hook and latch tape and stick them to the chart.  I prefer to use the rough side on the chart, so the stickers have the soft fuzzy side on the backs.  Be sure to leave space in between the squares so the stickers fit.  Here is a photo of one of mine:

 Now for the stickers!  Get the kids involved.  They will love picking the pictures.  You can either go to Google and search certain images they like.  For example search "Pokemon images" and then scroll through all the images, click on the ones you like, and drag them to your desk top.  I drop mine into iPhoto from there and then print them out as a contact sheet to get to sticker size.

Searching through Pokemon images on Google.  Be sure to click on the image before you drag it to the desk top,
so you get it from it's original location.

Another great way to find images is to go directly to the website of the show your child loves and use the wallpapers.  I do the same thing:  Save them to my desktop, drag them into iPhoto, print them as a contact sheet and this is what I get after printing the contact sheet:

I cut each image into individual stickers.  Then it's off to Kinko's we go!  You are going to need to use their laminating machine for the stickers.  Don't be afraid.  It is easy, but ask for help if you have never used one before.

I used a large laminate sheet and placed it in the folder needed to pass it through the machine, so I won't have to shift of move my sheet after I line them up.  You may want to start with a smaller 8x10 sheet of laminate and use multiple sheets if necessary.  It might be easier to handle.  Either way, line up all the stickers on the inside of the laminate sheet - face up or down makes no difference.  Make sure to leave plenty of room between stickers, so you can cut them out.  Each sticker needs to have a frame of laminate around the outer edge of the paper after cut, so none of the paper is exposed once cut.  Close the laminate sheet and folder, pass it through the machine.  At this time you can also have your poster board laminated for you by the staff.  Pay for it and head home to finish up!

Cut each piece into it's own sticker making sure to leave a 1/4" border or so of laminate around the edge.  Cut squares of the fuzzy side of the hook and latch tape and adhere them to the backs of the stickers. 

Find a nice little box to store them all in.  The kids just love looking through these!

Then you need to make your Behavior Expectation chart:

You can refer to the the photos I previously posted for ideas for your own chart, but my guess is if you are reading this far down the blog you probably know exactly what you want to add to your chart.  All you need is a blank chart and different colored dry erase markers to get started.  You can find these at any craft, teaching, or office supply store.  

You can reward anyway you choose.  Ours is check mark = sticker on chart.  Sticker on chart = 10 minutes of computer or tv time.  Having less empty spaces (unfulfilled expectations) than Mom on their chart at the end of the week = BIG PRIZE!

Good luck to all the parents out there at the end of their rope!  This is a tough job, but we can do it.  None of us are perfect and we all have bad days.  There is nothing wrong with that.  What is most important is that we become aware, accountable, and always work hard at being the best person we can be.  It never hurts to be recognized and rewarded for our efforts either.  :)

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