Only time will tell if we can bring our crazy, hyperextended family together...BETTER! Come share our laughs and struggles as we test tips, tricks, and tools-of-the-trade in our quest for a more fabulous family life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekly Focus Tip--The New, Improved "Star Chart"

“Star” Charts, as my kids call them, are nothing new.  Teachers have been known to use a similar format as a “behavior chart” for classes or individuals, depending on the type of classroom.  When first introduced, they were meant as a positive reinforcement tool for behavior modification.  Instead of giving a negative consequence for a negative behavior, the idea is to give a positive reward for a positive behavior and, as some people do get in a habit of appreciating negative attention, attention is not given toward the negative behavior.  When a person earns enough “stars” on the chart (or “smiley faces” or whatever token is chosen to use), the person can then receive an award.  In classrooms this type of reward system can be used for individuals on a weekly or even a daily basis.  The earned reward system works best if the reward is something that the person has chosen for himself.

  Behavior charts showing up on the homefront soon after they were introduced into classrooms.  Some families use them when “toilet training”.  Some families use them as “chore charts”.  Decorated “star charts” can be found in tablet form at stores, such as Office Max or even Toys ‘R Us  for both of those purposes. 
When my kids started to get up and moving, getting into things, and starting temper tantrums, the “star chart” seemed to be a positive alternate to “time out”, the other discipline trend that has been around for at least the past decade.  I tried the “star chart” not only for “toilet training” in a positive manner, but also for such items as “being kind to brother”; or teaching about hygiene as in “brush teeth”, “pick out clothes”; and even then, chores such as “put away toys”.  The key to the “star chart” is not to put too many items on it and to use fairly concrete items.  We usually stick to four or five items total, especially when kids are very little.  If the person does not do an item, he doesn’t earn the star.  It’s as simple as that. 
The best part about the “star chart” is that it can run itself.  Once the kids learn how it works, they will start to monitor their own behavior and ask for the star.  They earn the reward themselves which is also an authentic confidence booster.  The worst part about the “start chart” is that it was originally touted as only being effective when consistently used.  Staying consistent with the keeping of the chart can be difficult, especially when pressed for time.  It is a technique for which the parent needs to be committed to spending some time each day.  I’ll be honest, I’m horrible at keeping up with the “star chart” and I used to beat myself up about it all the time.  However, as I have used the technique now for at least ten years, it does seem that the “star charts” still work when used sporadically.
We have taken the original chart and now reformed the “star chart” to meet our own family’s needs.  We only use the “star chart” when we need a “refresher” on everyone taking part in doing chores, the kids want to earn something special, they are having trouble keeping up with homework, or negative behaviors start popping up in the household.  It seems to work well this way.  We are in a routine of doing the “star charts” about three times a year.  The kids can earn a weekly reward of their own choosing by earning approximately 90 to 95 percent of their stars on the chart.  Rewards that they choose can be anything from allowance money to a “play date” with a special friend that doesn’t live nearby.  Each week, they can start over and choose another reward to try to earn. 
This time, we have chosen to have two of the activities to be related to self-management of homework (i.e. the child needs to write his homework down each day and show it to mom or dad), one activity related to self-management of healthy living, one related to chores (doing a certain amount of chores each day to help our household run well), one related to a behavior that we are trying to work on as a family (using positive language) and then, we all chose the idea that each person would create his/her own individual goal.  I love this new addition.  It is teaching the kids to create goals on their own and to monitor their own goal actions.  In the past, all of the activities were parent-created; now, the kids are taking more ownership of their own “star charts”.  We have been using this addition for only two weeks now and in those two weeks, my oldest son, who put on his chart to write a half page a day, has written three pages out of a story he wanted to write.  My second son, who put down to rearrange his room as his individual goal, created a blueprint, cleaned and rearranged the furniture (with help) to his own taste (and he’s keeping it clean, another miracle!).  My daughter chose to put down “keep locker organized” as her own goal and my youngest child’s goal was to work on a long term project.  With our own family’s modifications, and letting go of my own guilt for not being completely consistent with it, the “star chart” is having a positive resurgence in our family. 

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