Trash Your Behavior Charts!
I have a pet peeve as both a parent and as a clinician about behavior charts. You know, those charts where kids get stickers for doing things they are supposed to be doing anyway, and then they get a treat or prize for doing it enough times? I am aware this opinion may be upsetting to some clinicians and especially school professionals where behavior charts are relied upon so heavily. As a parent, I just think they are annoying and hard to follow for me. As a clinician, I believe they set up a tit for tat system in a family where everyone starts measuring who did what when. For my parents with children with attachment disorder they are especially frustrating because by the time a child has earned the prize, you might feel as though you are so angry about all the work it took for you to get them to do the chore/ desired behavior that you don’t really feel like giving them anything. Sometimes kids make you sorry you gave the prize after the fact by deciding now that they earned the prize they don’t need to do anything for a while. What a pain.
I have a much better alternative to traditional behavior charts. It’s the only one that works and it requires little effort from you! This will take all of two minutes of your life. Here’s how it works:
- Take a piece of paper and write down one or two (I would only do a couple at a time because it’s easier to keep track of) things your child does that bug the heck out of you i.e. lying, “forgetting” to do their chores, sassing back. Pick something that is realistic for their developmental level.
- Think of a few prizes you might like to earn that involve self-care: a massage, getting a cup of tea with a friend, take a long bath, etc.
- Let your child know that you are now giving yourself a behavior chart. When you are able to successfully handle this behavior from your child in a manner you feel is appropriate (without you yelling, whining, engaging in a back and forth battle), you get a point! Decide how many points you need to earn to get a prize. Tell your child that when they engage in that behavior from now on you (not they) will earn a point.
- When they do engage in the behavior, calmly remark on what an opportunity this is for you to earn points so you can take care of yourself. It’s important for parents to take care of themselves when kids are giving them a hard time. You can wonder aloud how long it’s going to take to get your prize.
- This is the most important step. Follow through! When you earn your points, do the thing you said you would do to take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. Remember you picked things you like to do so perhaps they can help you now.
I have successfully used this “behavior chart” with many parents now and I have used it myself. It works like a charm. I used it with my own daughters who kept coming in at night to have me take them back to bed when they had their normal cycle of lighter sleep. I modified it so that if one kid came in, she earned her sister a point! Guess who sleeps without interruption for weeks at a time? This lady, right here does! J It’s really a win-win either way since even if you don’t get the desired behavior right away (and you will because kids get annoyed at the idea of earning you a prize) you at least get some self-care.
- What is attachment disorder? (help4yourfamily.com)
- Two things your kids tell their therapists about you (help4yourfamily.com)
April 5, 2012 - Posted by help4yourfamily | attachment, discipline, help for parents | Attachment disorder, Behavior, Bullying, Child, Child discipline, children, counseling, discipline, Family, Foster care, kids, parent, parenting, psychology, Teacher, therapy
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Kate Oliver, LCSW-C (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) has been a clinician working with traumatized and attachment-disturbed children for the last thirteen years. She is co-owner of A Healing Place, a successful private practice in Columbia, Maryland, since 2007.
Kate earned her BA from Goucher College in 1997 and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland in Baltimore in 2000. Kate first worked with the Sexual Trauma, Treatment, Advocacy and Recovery Center (STTAR Center) working with abused and neglected children in Columbia, Maryland. While working for the STTAR Center, Kate found that while some children responded to traditional child therapy practices, there were a significant number of children who showed little or no improvement in their overall emotional well-being. Kate sought out specialized training to learn more about attachment, the bond between parents and children, and found that by using attachment-based strategies built upon research by John Bowlby, and Mary Ainsworth, and models that foster parent/child attachment, even the most challenging children and their parents, saw major, life-changing shifts, not only for the children she was working with, but the parents as well.
After the STTAR Center, Kate accepted a position with Tamar’s Children, a program that took pregnant, incarcerated women from prison to a treatment facility that worked on teaching the women to bond with and attach to their babies, while also helping the women to heal their own broken attachments, and history of trauma and addiction. Kate was quickly promoted to Clinical Director of Tamar’s Children. The program was internationally recognized for having a successful, evidence-based practice using an attachment-based model. From working with some of the most severely disenfranchised parents, Kate received important information about how to help all parents maintain a happy, healthy relationship with their children with little or no additional financial investment for the parents.
In 2007, Kate co-founded A Healing Place, a mental health private group practice in Columbia, Maryland, where she focuses on working with families with children who have a history of trauma and/or attachment disturbances. A board certified supervisor, Kate has been an invited presenter to teach continuing education courses for other social workers and psychologists. In her courses, Kate teaches attachment-building techniques and presents about her sub-specialty, working with families headed by gay and lesbian parents.
Kate is a former board member for the organization COLAGE, a non-profit group that works toward community building for people with gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender parents. She is currently a member of Attachment Disorders Maryland, a group that works to educate parents and professionals about working with children with attachment related issues.
Kate lives in Columbia, Maryland is the mother of two amazing daughters, the partner to a fantastic husband, and the daughter of one mother and two gay dads. She loves to read any book that crosses her path, write (of course), and she recently started dancing again, a passion she has had since her youth.
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