Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Happy Heart Chart

I wanted to share a little jewel that I have recently discovered in parenting. I think I mentioned that we had a few tough months regarding attitudes and behavior last year. A lot of that can be chalked up to having a 2 and a 3 year old, which in my opinion, is the most challenging age combination EVER when it comes to defiance and tantrums and disciplining (of course we'll see what I'm saying when they are 14 and 15, ha!). Those sweet kids of mine (more so one than the other, but I'll let you guess which one is stubborn and hard-headed just like their momma) know how to push my buttons and I was having a hard time staying neutral in my emotion. Keeping it real translation: I was a raging hot-head who yelled at my kids way too much and spouted off empty threats like I'm going to throw all your toys in the trash if I have to ask you to pick them up one more time!!!! and if you get out of your bed again we are gonna cancel family night this week!!! It was getting pretty embarrassing. I knew I needed a new system in place because what we had going on definitely wasn't working. 

So around the new year I started researching ideas. I came across this post and decided to give it a try. I was skeptical but hopeful at the same time. I modified it to meet our needs and slapped that puppy up on the wall...and then a miracle occurred. My children actually started listening!! And picking up their toys!!! And being respectful!!! And having good attitudes!!! And showing more kindness and consideration for others!!! And all peace was restored in our home again. Obviously they are still kids and still make foolish choices from time to time, but overall this has been a game-changer in our house. 



You can read the post I referenced for more detail, but to summarize, here is how it works: 

I had each child pick out 6 "tokens" of their liking. It could be a picture of anything and it was totally up to them. Harrison picked an astronaut, Fishy Boyd, a monster truck, Superman, a football, and Caillou. Harper chose a cupcake, Snow White, a ballerina, Minnie, Cinderella, and Barbie. The key is to get them excited about their tokens so they form a tangible attachment to them. Then I printed them on card stock and cut them out into circles.

Every day they start fresh with 6 tokens. Even if the day before was a total loss, each day is a new beginning. Each time they disobey or fight or make a poor choice, they have to pay me or Rick a token. They physically have to pick one out and hand it over, which I think is huge for them from a mental standpoint. There are many times they fret over which token they want to give up. The best part of this system is that there are tons of opportunities for positive reinforcement. Each time I catch them doing something good or obeying right away, they earn back a token. Some days this is easy and they are very motivated, and other days I reeeeally have to try hard to find reasons to pay them back. But I think this positive reinforcement is the key to the success of the chart so I definitely dole out a lot of grace. Their goal is to have all 6 of their tokens at the end of the day. And if they do, they get a sticker and we all sing and do The Happy Dance. We don't say anything negative if they don't have all 6, but if they do then we make a big deal.

If they lose all six of their tokens, they are gone for the rest of the day and there is no opportunity to earn them back. There is also a more severe consequence. Thankfully it's only happened a few times so far. The consequences we've used have been 1) no tv for the entire day, 2) a nap instead of quiet time, 3) early bedtime, and/or 4) tuck yourself into bed at night. #4 has by far had the biggest negative reaction...who would have thought?

I like that as soon as they lose a token they are usually pretty motivated to earn it right back. It never fails -- Harrison almost always loses one when we are trying to get out the door to leave. But I tell him he can earn it right back if he gets in his seat and buckles up on the first try. It's almost in my favor for them to need to earn back at least one at all times. ;)

I also like that it also teaches them the basic concept of currency. I will often tell them they can pay me a token to help them clean up their toys or they can clean them up by themselves for free. They know that they need to save their tokens, and they also know that they need 10 stickers to reach their goal. We have a $10 max limit on each goal (they can set a goal for a cheap toy, a fun outing, etc). If they see a toy they want that is $20 I tell them that's 2 goals worth, and they are beginning to recognize basic value. It's taken them almost 2 months to reach 2 goals so they know that it takes a lot to earn 20 stickers.

Here is a video with Harrison explaining how it works. Notice how he says he's the boss of his tokens. I think that's been HUGE for his personality. Even though obviously Rick and I are in authority, this chart takes out the power struggles most of the time. 





The biggest challenge is being consistent. Especially when we're on the go. It definitely takes effort but we've seen great results in a short amount of time. Hopefully the newness doesn't wear off and we all stay motivated.

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