Monday, January 16, 2012

The Reward Chart Has Magical Powers.

For months I've tried to persuade my sons to get themselves dressed in the morning. For months I've encouraged them to clean up their toys after playtime (with me on hands and knees singing that bloody awful "clean up clean up everybody clean up" song like a broken record). For months and probably years we've worked on good habits, nice manners and helpful tendencies. Sometimes all of our hard efforts pay off beautifully. And sometimes, friends, let's be honest: working on these things is like pulling teeth. My teeth, to be precise.

A while ago I decided to try a reward chart. I found a pretty one online and decided that the pretty reward chart was the answer to my prayers and would also look nice on my fridge. The chart failed. Though it looked attractive, it was too complicated and before long the boys lost interest. I gave up and tossed the pretty chart in the recycling bin, and we resumed our efforts the old-fashioned way (ie. nagging gentle encouragement).

Then one day at a playdate with my son's friend I noticed a piece of paper with tick marks crossed through on their fridge. The mom explained to me that her kids had to collect a certain number of ticks in order to get a reward (a movie, some TV or a treat).  

Right away I knew it was brilliant and wished I had thought of it first. I should have known. Simple is always best. Well, duh.

Back at home I put together my own reward chart just like theirs. I explained to the boys that when they had collected 10 smiley faces, they could have a new Hot Wheels car.


Suddenly there was a new enthusiasm to perfect all the things we'd been struggling with for so long. The morning after the chart went up they disappeared into their bedrooms after breakfast and re-emerged dressed from head to toe. Head to toe. Suddenly they were offering to clean up the toys from their bedroom floors and even the playroom downstairs. Things were happening. It was almost too good to be true.

By the time the weekend rolled around they had both reached their ten smiley face stickers and were given their reward as promised.

The other incredible thing about this reward chart? The mere suggestion that a sticker might be removed (OH GOD NO NOT THE STICKERS!!) as a result of bad behaviour and - snap - all is well again. Magic.

Now, I'm not one to assume that this reward chart is the answer to all my parenting problems (ahem) but for now I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying watching my sons' new zest for doing things independently. I'm enjoying the extra time this allows me. I'm enjoying it. 

I just wonder how long this magic will last....
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