As some of you may know, we’ve been dealing with the terrible twos for a while now. We’ve tried dealing with my son’s tantrums in a variety of ways, some more effective than others. It’s tricky, because we’re never quite sure if he’s just lacking discipline and we need to crack down, or if it’s something he’s unable to control, so we need to be sensitive. I’d say we were kind of 50/50 with our approaches, but maybe veering a little more on the side of trying to be sensitive and wait it out.
Meanwhile, I must confess, in an effort to avoid conflict, I have been buying my kids toys every time we go anywhere. Toys at the grocery store, toys at the dollar store, toys at the gas station. If a store has a toy, we are buying it. If a store doesn’t have a toy, people are crying at that store and begging to go to another store with toys.
At a soccer game, I talked with one of my friends, who also happens to be a kindergarten teacher. She told me that she uses a sticker chart. When the chart is filled up, her boys get to pick a treat. No toys, just simple stuff, like playing a game or making popcorn.
I was blown away. If I told my kids that their treat was a game, they would devour me. If a “treat” involves anything other than merchandise, it’s no treat. For anyone. Me or them.
Reflecting on that truth opened my eyes to something that was happening, that I was completely oblivious to… my kids are becoming spoiled. Whoops!
So… sticker charts it is!!! I came up with two age-appropriate charts. For every sticker, they get a coin (any random coin will do). For certain behaviors that need more work, I’ll throw out an offer of DOUBLE STICKERS! (marketing!)
At the end of the week, we count up the coins, and that’s how much they can spend or save. We only buy a toy once they’ve saved up enough. It’s helpful that we have a store called Five Below (everything $5 or below), because it’s pretty predictable that they receive at least that much in a week, and then there’s no sadness over wanting something that’s $20, because there’s nothing over $5 there.
We also decided to match whatever they make that week, and put that amount into their little banks, so we can start a savings for their little futures.
After 2 weeks of charts, I am pretty impressed with my little guy. As soon as he starts a tantrum, I remind him that he might lose his sticker, and he thinks about it, and usually decides to be nice.
Positive reinforcement was something we weren’t doing enough of, mainly because he was almost NEVER good (it pains me to say that). I could see right away how proud he was when he could see tangible evidence of the power of kindness.
Here’s something else that really blew my mind. Just after we initiated this, I had to get some mailing supplies at the craft store. There are a lot of toys at AC Moore. I told my daughter that there would be NO TOYS that day, since she hadn’t saved enough coins. After we left, she revealed that she’d stolen something. I was so shocked, she is normally so well behaved, and it made me realize that my spoiling was breeding this idea in her mind that she’s entitled to these things, and if someone says no, or there’s not enough money, she would just take them anyway.
I had no idea that this thought pattern was being created in her little mind. I’m so glad to know that now though. (We did go back to the store to give back the item)
In case you’d like to try out my charts, you can download the behavior charts below. I tried to make them age-appropriate for my own kids, but of course, I’m sure that varies by family. I’d be curious to hear your experiences with this kind of thing!
And here’s a blank version, if you’d like to make your own: http://yinmomyangmom.com/printables/chart_blank.pdf