October 16, 2014

Good Behavior Tally Board

So my wife and I started a small experiment involving our two kids. We were looking for a way to reinforce good behavior while curbing bad behavior. We came up with the idea to have a tally board (photo of the tally board below). The mechanics were pretty simple: when the kids behave for the day, we give them a star. 

For the criteria, we defined "bad behavior" as three main things: throwing temper tantrums, not doing homework right away, and fighting with helpers or a sibling.

To give the kids a sense of ownership and responsibility, we put a twist. Instead of the authority figure serving as the judge, we put the kids in charge of policing their own behavior. We ask them at the end of each day whether or not they deserve to get a star.

Although we're in the early stages of this experiment, only a few weeks old, I am quite encouraged by the results. And I'm not talking about the number of stars they have received, but rather, I am talking about the way the kids have become motivated to behave well. We have seen, especially with our eldest, his desire to actually try to curb his lapses from good behavior. Doing homework was the easiest to improve. With the help of consistent timing, we now rarely have to rush to finish homework right before bed time. Homework is now done the moment he gets home from school, before he even does any other activity. 

The other two criteria are still a work in progress. It's what keeps him from getting a star on most days. But I'm proud of my son. He knows when he doesn't deserve to get a star and he owns up to it like a responsible adult. To me this is real progress. By acknowledging his shortcomings now, my hope is that in the future, he will learn to correct it by himself.

I'm by no means a child expert or a psychologist. But if there is one thing I have learned as a parent it's this: every child is different. You can read every book ever published on children and how to raise children properly and you'll still get a different result when you apply the lessons with your child. 

As with most things, raising a child is not a perfect science. It takes time and effort. And I will guarantee you that you WILL make mistakes. It's okay I think. No one is perfect. Your child will in most instances forgive you. 

What's important is that we learn from these mistakes and get to know our children better.  It is only in knowing our own children that we can truly find the best way to raise them into the responsible and successful adults we want them to become.