In my former life, I as an early childhood special education teacher. My classroom was well-structured with a consistent routine and I had a discipline system in place. My home has now become my classroom. I have decided to create a positive reward system, but will still be using negative consequences (time-out and grounding) as well. These are all things I have done in the past, but consistency is my downfall. Let's be honest, these things take time. You have to pay careful attention to catch those desired behaviors and reward them. You also have to stick to your guns and take those favorite activities or toys away, which in turn usually leads to a very loud and long fight from the kiddos. This is something that I have to commit to, for longer than a few days, and I have made the decision to do so. Sigh...
Today is Day 1. Let the lessons begin.
My first step was to choose one behavior for each child that I would like to diminish or eliminate all together. It was hard to choose just one! My oldest has a tendency to be "the boss," especially of his sister. While at times this can be helpful, most of the time I find it very annoying as does she. The biggest problem with this behavior is that he is too busy worrying about other people that he can't get done what he needs to do. I warned him: anytime you boss your brother or sister around you will sit in time-out. He sat twice before he'd been up for an hour. The rest of the morning went better!
It was a bit harder to choose a behavior for the younger two, as I feel like it's harder to get the point across, but we'll try just the same. My middle child is three and I find this to be a very difficult age. In my opinion, it's more the terrible 3's than 2's. She is the queen of doing the polar opposite of what is asked of her. This is the behavior that I have chosen to work on. I have been using the "1,2,3" system with her and if she doesn't stop, she ends up in time-out. I am going to retire that system. When she deliberately disobeys me, she will be sitting in time-out. She could be spending a significant portion of her day there at this point, but I am hopeful that it will change.
Our youngest has an issue with his temper. He goes from zero to sixty in .5 seconds I swear. The screaming, hitting, and head-butting need to go. He'll be spending some time in his pack-and-play for timeout when the monster emerges. At least I can close the door!
Time-out is the method I am using to diminish or eliminate these behaviors. I had gotten a little bit lazy about how long they are sitting in time-out, so we are going back to the rule of one minute per year of age. The older two have been given limit on how many time-outs they can get. I have made a sad face on sticky notes and placed them on what has become my "behavior system" wall. The oldest gets three sad faces and the middle child four. Each time they get a time-out, they have to take one down. If they run out of stickers they are grounded from tv for the rest of the day. If it's late in the day, they're grounded the following morning. This has been a rather effortless system. The minute the timer goes off, they have both been going over and taking a sticker down. There's something about seeing only one sticker remain that has been motivational.
Each child has been given a chart that is age-appropriate. My oldest has ten boxes with the numbers 1-10 (this is also a good math lesson for addition), the middle has five pictures, and the youngest two. I made them myself, but there are many online with a variety of characters and amount of boxes to be filled. When they have filled up their chart, they get a reward.
The key is to find what motivates each child. This is also easier to figure out for the older two, as they can verbalize what they think a great reward would be. So far they've come up with playing a game, watching a show, and reading a book. I am trying not to use prizes or food for them, as I don't want to spend a bunch of money on Dollar Tree junk or load them up on sugar. The younger one, however, really only responds to treats at this point. I've decided on a fruit snack (yes, just one).
The kids are eating this up. The younger two have already received one reward today and the oldest is close. This is where I have to be diligent about paying attention and giving them that sticker when they listen the first time. We've all done quite well today. I'm hoping some more rewards will be given out this afternoon. The older two think this is really fun, as they get to choose their reward. Giving them that sense of control is key. My youngest is enjoying putting the stickers on the trains and having a treat. It's a win-win!
This is just the beginning of our adventure. I will be adding some new things into our daily routine and tweaking what isn't working. Stay tuned to see how we're progressing!