Parenting is Not Getting Easier!

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(Jessica’s son, Jack’s, reward chart.)

by Jessica Shyba

One of the things about parenthood I’m marveling at lately is how things keep changing, seemingly over night. With these changes, come fresh parenting struggles. I’m finding that as my children age, disciplining them is getting tougher.

Born 19 months apart, my older two kids spent much of their toddlerhood together. Now, at ages 5 and 6, respectively, Zoe and Jack are exploring their independence, and it’s stirring up lots of big feelings for them.

Everything from place settings at dinner to comparing sizes of each other’s muffins triggers an argument that always seems to end in tears. They endlessly compete for status: Being the first to get in the car, finish with their bath, eat all of their breakfast, lunch or dinner. Weekend activities seem to end up being centered around some sort of competition: Who is the fastest on their scooters, the winner in the board games, even the most creative artist at craft time. It’s exhausting!

So a couple of months ago, I decided to give reward charts a try. Since both Jack and Zoe respond well to organized activities, schedules, and goals, I thought this tool stood a chance.  I didn’t want to center their behavior standards around prize incentives, so I avoided this tactic for a while until I could come up with something that didn’t involve toys. Also, my goal is to make good behavior a habit, not temporary (caused by kids focusing only on the prize!)

We went together to the teacher supply store and I let them pick out their own charts and stickers, plus a couple sheets of gold stars for end-of-day successes.

My children have their own lists of about eight tasks per day. I define “tasks” as good behaviors such as kindness, sharing, helpfulness, etc. The absence of negative behavior is terrific and acknowledged, but not necessarily rewarded. My aim is to reinforce positive behavior not reward non-negativity. I craft the task to the child’s struggles. So, Zoe needs to sit at the table and eat her meals. Jack needs to remember to get dressed in the morning. They both have to brush their teeth, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, and do their homework without being asked or arguing with me (or each other) about it.

They get a sticker for each task successfully completed. At the end of the day if they have seven stickers, they then receive a gold star. After receiving seven gold stars (seven days of great behavior) they’ve earned a reward of their choice, like a pizza party, movie night, etc.

This is a work-in-progress and something I forsee being a challenge for all of us for years to come. I will say now that we’ve adjusted to the reward chart process, my kids’ behavior is improving and staying consistent.

The important thing to me is modeling proper behavior and instilling the mindset that certain things need to happen every day, with intentional kindness and especially without hurting each other in the process. I’m not entirely sure the sticker chart is our end-all, be-all, but for now it seems to be working pretty well.

 Jessica Shyba is mother to three, and the very popular blogger behind Momma’s Gone City.

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Posted in: Discipline, Parental Wisdom, Modern Parenting, Guest Post