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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hallelujuah! An Incentive Chart for Kids that Works! .... At Least For Me

Written by Lee

I've written about this before. Charts. And how in the past they have mainly been imaginary ones. Where if my kids did something awesome, I would suddenly proclaim "Hooray! I'm giving you a good mark on your chart!" And they would say "Yay!" Even though there was no chart. They were young enough to accept my pretend reward chart games. I guess.

Other times, I would make a chart and start keeping track of their good deeds but due to my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants parenting style, I would have trouble sticking with my own chart plan. And I guess I wasn't sure how to end the chart. What the rewards should be. And I think both my kids and I would lose interest in the chart. Too concrete. Too uh, charty.

I like spontaneity. I'm not rigid. I respect schedule and structure but I am not bound by it. I'd like to think that just because I like to blast some tunes and dance around with my kids in the kitchen that they would just want to do nice things for me. For the house. You know, contribute to the family.

Well, I was wrong.

As my girls have gotten older, 7 and 5 now, I have realized that I really needed to find a way to visually let them know that they're actions and behavior and contributions around the house were being acknowledged. And I wanted to give them real incentive to pitch in and help. I wanted to stop listening to my droning voice constantly reminding them to clean their room or brush their teeth.

I wanted help.

So one day I devised and drew up this chart.

I know all of you are like "Whatever Lee. You are so behind the times. I already use charts and I rule."

Well, I know you use charts. Some of my friends use charts but they almost always worked in this way:

The chart listed what was expected of the kid each and every day and the kid was supposed to do it. All of the things on the chart. Or on M, W, F do one set of things, and T and TH, do another set of things.

I'm just not into doing the same things all. the. time. I don't live that way so I realized I shouldn't expect my kids to live that way.

The chart I drew spanned a month of time. I came up with like 15-20 categories where I needed their help. Things like "Making Your Bed," "Putting Clothes Away," and "Listening to Mama." I explained to them that they didn't have to do everything everyday but the more things they did, the more stickers they would get which would mean a big fat reward at the end of the month.

(FYI, I had no real idea what the reward would be. I knew I had a month to figure it out.)

If they really made me mad with their incessant fighting or backtalk or something, I would put a big "X" through a sticker they earned. That would really upset them. Wow. Almost to the point of me wondering whether it was worth it. But I did it anyway.

What I love about this chart is that it has flexibility. I do not need to remind them to do the same. things. day. after. day. Making our lives one big frightening routine. With this chart, one day they can excel in cleaning their plate or cleaning up their toys. The next day they can do their homework without prodding and earn a sticker.

The possibilities and combinations are endless. This chart answers for me what I have had problems with in other charts. It respects the fact that we are not the same people each and every day. We have different moods. We are motivated to do different things. For all kinds of reasons. I dig that about this chart.

At the end of the month, I had decided that cash would be a good reward. My girls are always looking through catalogs asking for the next DS game or the newest My Little Pony toy so I decided I would give them 10 cents for every sticker earned.

At the end of the month - Claire, 7, earned $6.80 and Phoebe, 5, earned $6.40.

And they were beside themselves with pride and excitement. They even asked when I would be making the next chart.

Now I'm not saying every day is perfect because of this incentive chart. Hell, no. But, it has given me a new way to encourage my girls to jump in and help out around the house and I have to tell you, it has made for one happier mama.

And a happier mama is well worth $13.20.

So what about your chart tricks? Are you wondering what's taken me so long to figure this all out?


  1. i see poor tinker bell is getting the short end of the stick. :)

    this is awesome. it is worth $1,320, if you ask me!! although, i hate to break it to you, but i think most charts are like this... the difference is YOU and your attitude towards their participation. i love, love, love how you recognize that the kids aren't always on their A game and instead of punishing them for not completing every task, you reward the things they do. smart mama.

  2. Yeah! I may try this. Rewarding the good.... Do they have to do these things WITHOUT nagging from Mommy? Mine are older and I think I should expect them to do things w/o the nag.

  3. Well played Mama, well played. Priceless IMO.

    Oldest has taken over Youngest's potty training chart - I "rewarded" him the right to do the chart because he listens well and encourages Youngest by shouting "bullseye!" and "way to pee!!!"

    Yeah girl, I can WORK a chart!! :-)

  4. Charts work really well here too. Hayden loves his chart and I love what it teaches him.

  5. I like how this shows how much you respect your kids as little people. We *are* all different day to day, I sure know I'm not up for cleaning the bathroom every day but I could handle the laundry. Geesh, if someone had a chart for me I'd be screwed. you got me thinking. Maybe I need to give *myself* a chart! Not a bad idea, Lee. ;)

  6. Those are some BIG X's!

    Is it too late to implement a chart with a 12 yr. old?

  7. THANK YOU! I'll try anything at this point with my 9 year old. Nothing has worked so far, but I am hopeful cause I HATE nagging and I seem to do it a lot. Sigh. Kim

  8. No charts over here for mostly the reasons you gave (my inability to stick with any sort of "chart system.")

    Those charts of yours, however, are very, VERY impressive. They border on artsy and crafty, my friend. You may get kicked off this blog if you keep this stuff up.

    And the X's...oh dear heavens, they frighten me so.

    Glad it's working. Whatever motivates them :-)

  9. I can see why they don't like the X's. Your X's mean business and I like it!

    This is a great idea and although I am not in chart territory yet I will have to remember your idea later on.

    I have trouble not being ridged with others even though I am not always ridged with myself. Thank you for the reminder, Lee.

  10. That, my friend, is damn impresive. You're looking more and more like a supermom every day!

    I love it.

  11. Oooh, yay. I like your charts. I haven't done one since the potty training days. I totally need to make one again, I love this! (The X's had me giggling, I can imagine the fuss they cause!) THANKS!

  12. I am just like you in your post-chart loving phase. I can't seem to make them work for me. I'm too scattered. Maybe I just need a different chart... Or more stickers. Almost everything can be solved with more stickers.

  13. I did a 'chart' too - and instead of money, they got to SPIN THE WHEEL OF FUN that had stuff on it like Eat Dinner Backwards (dessert first) and Dadventure (where they would get special one on one time with dad).

    I think it's time to bring it back...oh yeah-it's time.

  14. Lee, I've done charts off and on depending on my heightened level of frustration. I suck at them. I forget. I'm inconsistent. This is shocking because as a former BD teacher, my kiddos HAD to have detailed charts every day. I rocked them.

    The only successful chart I did was 6 weeks prior to Disney World last summer. I told the girls they could have a quarter for every star they earned. In my poor mathematical mind, they would both end up woth about $20 to wheel and deal with in the world of mouse. However, they ended up with $68 & $66. I cannot calculate. However, I would have spent more than that anyway, and it ended up being AWESOME. Not only were they mere angels for 6 weeks, but they really thought out their spending on vacay. No whining, no frivoulous spending. It was AWESOME.

  15. This is great! I may steal your idea...Our 6-month-old is a bit too young for charts, but I am super excited to get cute stickers, markers and chart away :)


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