I have a request to talk about how we motivate/encourage/reward good behavior at my house and how we discipline. The parent asking was particularly interested in how to keep the motivation going after something like a sticker chart has been in the works for a few weeks. Her oldest child is the same age as my kids who are 4yo and 6yo.
So, let me start by saying I have two VERY energetic, high spirited children each with a propensity for mischief. There is a lot of “behavior redirection” at our house. I believe my role as a parent is to be a parent, not a friend or buddy. That said, my husband and I respect the very intelligent, emotional, creative, independent beings they are. We are loving and silly and snuggly and strict. We make decisions on the big stuff and give them as many choices as we can on the little stuff. I guess you could say our parenting style is “Love and Logic, with a healthy dose of Midwestern no-nonsense mixed in”. I ignore the little things, pick my battles, and let them know daily that they are full of awesome.
Overall, the kids know they are expected to be well behaved, respectful, follow rules, and be kind to each other.
We focus on good behavior, redirect bad behavior to making better choices or apologizing for a hurt, and follow through with consequences. We do short time outs if someone needs to calm down before we can talk about what happened. We help with sincere apologies, and have them explain back to us why behavior was considered inappropriate. And on serious offenses we take away privileges. We make the distinction between bad choices or bad behavior does not make a bad person.
Stickers and a marble jar have never worked for these guys, but for whatever reason, our “Chore Chart” is a hit. We keep the earning/reward cycle short, mostly because they are little kids and still learning the concept of time. To focus on the good behavior, aside from hugs and compliments and high fives and such, the kids earn the right to color in a circle on our “Chore Chart” that hangs our fridge. I forget why we call it that, because it isn’t really just for “chores”. Amelia has always called it that. The kids earn credit for things like smoothly getting ready for school in the morning (MAJOR issue at our house), helping to feed our dogs, helping me with little things for the business, picking up toys, helping around the yard, helping with laundry or dishes or grocery shopping. They know they get bonus points with mom for offering to do these things or doing them without being asked. At breakfast we’ll talk about what things they can do during the day to be good helpers. Sometimes if they are just having a super awesome day, or did something really kind for someone, I’ll give them a Free Spot which I color in. Each circle will equal about a dollar, give or take. It comes out to $5 a week per kid. Benny usually chooses to buy Legos or stuffed animals with his earnings, Amelia usually chooses Legos, art, books, or science stuff. We usually set a goal in mind, and they know if the item is out of their budget, they need to save up for an additional week or work extra hard during the week to earn extra spots. They stay motivated by realizing that the more they pitch in and get along with each other, the nicer I am and the more time I have to do fun stuff. They otherwise do not have toys purchased for them outside of birthdays or holidays, and we don’t necessarily go shopping every week. We also include lessons about wants vs needs, donating away old toys, and the value of earning money and sticking to a budget.
Sometimes in the summer we’ll switch to things like Ice Cream Points or if we plan to take a trip to an amusement park or museum, we’ll talk to the kids about needing to pitch in with all of the work during the week so that we can take off on the weekend. We also try to do things that acknowledge good behavior for its own merit, like “Hey cubbies! You have been soooo good all week. Let’s eat a quick dinner and then go to the library in our pj’s until bedtime!”. They pretty quickly learn that crabby rotten kids get baths and put to bed early, while fun and easy-going kids who listen well and are kind to each other get lots of perks.
Before big events like a holiday, birthday, or vacation, we make paper chains to help with the countdown, and get lots of storybooks and craft projects on hand themed around the event to help pass each day.
For my kids, consistent expectations and rules make for a calm and sane household. Spontaneity and crazy fun with rewards keeps them motivated to be full of awesome.
What are some tips and tricks that work at your house?