Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I knew this day was coming.

Lately Little Love has been terribly terrible. Moody, not listening and obeying, whining, negotiating, pouting, being mean to her sister and our pets, and throwing fits when she doesn't get her way. You know, typical four-year-old girl stuff. Verbal warnings are not working as well as they used to, and even time outs are having limited effectiveness lately. I have decided that it's time to impose a behavior chart into our routines so that discipline can become more formal and more concrete for both Little Love and myself. (Lately I've been giving so many warnings, that sometimes I forget when I've said, "LAST warning!" If being a teacher for ten years has taught me anything, it's this: in order for discipline to be effective, there has to be consistent follow-through. Last warning means LAST WARNING. The next step is a consequence.)

So I scoured the internet looking for a good behavior chart that reflects my philosophies of parenting and discipline.  I wanted a chart that would give chances for Little Love to self-correct before a consequence occurs, but still promotes positive behaviors that I want her to exhibit (not just negative behaviors I want her to avoid).

I found a few structures for charts I liked; however, they all had some problems. I used these charts as examples for the chart I eventually made. I liked the rainbow theme used on these charts and the multiple levels of behavior (both positive and negative) on each. I also liked how Little Love could move the clothespin up and down to help her monitor her own behavior. However, the wording on these charts is vague, and I want Little Love to know exactly what behaviors I am looking for, not just what behaviors to avoid.

From Happiness is Homemade

Through teaching, I've learned that you need to be clear and specific in your feedback to children so that they can fully understand what you expect them to do. "Great job" and "outstanding" doesn't necessarily convey what they did that deserved that response.
Here is my version of a rainbow behavior chart, with more specific positive traits.
Here is how my behavior chart works: Little Love's clothespin will start on the green "Ready to Listen" each day. As the day progresses, her clothespin will move up and/or down according to her attitude and actions. I'll explain each of our levels in more detail, starting with the negative consequences.

Yellow consists of a verbal warning describing the negative behavior and a reminder to make better choices before more negative consequences occur. Moving the clothespin to this level should remind Little Love that she's on the path for more unpleasant consequences if she continues the negative behavior.

Orange consists of a time out and time to stop and think about what behaviors have led to this point. It will also involve a discussion about what behaviors she could do instead to avoid this time out in the future.

Red consists of the loss of a privilege.  Little Love loves her screen time, so the loss of screen time would often be the first consequence at this level.

I wanted to keep the negative behavior levels somewhat generic since Little Love seems to be struggling with a number of issues at this point. However, there are some very specific positive behaviors that I want to see her cultivate instead. Listening, obeying, thinking ahead, and being proactive in knowing what I expect of her will result in some positive rewards. Being proactive and thinking ahead will negate whining and pouting, and listening and obeying will counteract the disobedience and disrespectful behavior.

Light Blue indicates the minimum good behavior that I am looking for. I am looking for her to attend to my instructions and to do as she is asked without backtalk. This is the minimum standard for "good" behavior.

Dark Blue consists of anticipating what she may be asked to do and doing it without being asked or told to do so.  In our house, we call this "thinking ahead and being proactive." For example, when it is chore time in our daily routine, Little Love can think ahead to the chores she is expected to do (for example, giving the pets fresh food and water). If she can think ahead and do this without being asked, told, or reminded to do so, her clip will move up to this level.

Purple is the reward level. Rewards are attained by performing at the dark blue level at multiple points throughout the day or by avoiding all of the negative behavior levels. To start, a small reward will be given for simply avoiding the negative levels. As her behavior improves, larger rewards will be given for attaining the dark blue level more and more consistently. Small rewards may include some extra outside time after dinner or an extra book before bed. Large rewards may include going to the zoo or having a playdate with a special friend.

Would you like to download my behavior chart as a free pdf printable? Click here.

So that's it. I'll let you know how it works out in the long run. I'm curious - how do you get your children to not only behave, but also to anticipate and accomplish positive actions without you directly telling them to do so?


  1. My son's teachers in each grade level so far have used a chart. This is a good visual for kids to grasp.

  2. My kids are too old for a behavior chart now, but I really like how you did this. Makes me wish I had this when they were little.