Hallelujuah! An Incentive Chart for Kids that Works! …. At Least For Me

Written by Lee

I’ve written about this before. Charts. And how in the past they have mainly been imaginary ones. Where if my kids did something awesome, I would suddenly proclaim “Hooray! I’m giving you a good mark on your chart!” And they would say “Yay!” Even though there was no chart. They were young enough to accept my pretend reward chart games. I guess.

Other times, I would make a chart and start keeping track of their good deeds but due to my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants parenting style, I would have trouble sticking with my own chart plan. And I guess I wasn’t sure how to end the chart. What the rewards should be. And I think both my kids and I would lose interest in the chart. Too concrete. Too uh, charty.

I like spontaneity. I’m not rigid. I respect schedule and structure but I am not bound by it. I’d like to think that just because I like to blast some tunes and dance around with my kids in the kitchen that they would just want to do nice things for me. For the house. You know, contribute to the family.

Well, I was wrong.

As my girls have gotten older, 7 and 5 now, I have realized that I really needed to find a way to visually let them know that they’re actions and behavior and contributions around the house were being acknowledged. And I wanted to give them real incentive to pitch in and help. I wanted to stop listening to my droning voice constantly reminding them to clean their room or brush their teeth.

I wanted help.

So one day I devised and drew up this chart.

I know all of you are like “Whatever Lee. You are so behind the times. I already use charts and I rule.”

Well, I know you use charts. Some of my friends use charts but they almost always worked in this way:

The chart listed what was expected of the kid each and every day and the kid was supposed to do it. All of the things on the chart. Or on M, W, F do one set of things, and T and TH, do another set of things.

I’m just not into doing the same things all. the. time. I don’t live that way so I realized I shouldn’t expect my kids to live that way.

The chart I drew spanned a month of time. I came up with like 15-20 categories where I needed their help. Things like “Making Your Bed,” “Putting Clothes Away,” and “Listening to Mama.” I explained to them that they didn’t have to do everything everyday but the more things they did, the more stickers they would get which would mean a big fat reward at the end of the month.

(FYI, I had no real idea what the reward would be. I knew I had a month to figure it out.)

If they really made me mad with their incessant fighting or backtalk or something, I would put a big “X” through a sticker they earned. That would really upset them. Wow. Almost to the point of me wondering whether it was worth it. But I did it anyway.

What I love about this chart is that it has flexibility. I do not need to remind them to do the same. things. day. after. day. Making our lives one big frightening routine. With this chart, one day they can excel in cleaning their plate or cleaning up their toys. The next day they can do their homework without prodding and earn a sticker.

The possibilities and combinations are endless. This chart answers for me what I have had problems with in other charts. It respects the fact that we are not the same people each and every day. We have different moods. We are motivated to do different things. For all kinds of reasons. I dig that about this chart.

At the end of the month, I had decided that cash would be a good reward. My girls are always looking through catalogs asking for the next DS game or the newest My Little Pony toy so I decided I would give them 10 cents for every sticker earned.

At the end of the month – Claire, 7, earned $6.80 and Phoebe, 5, earned $6.40.

And they were beside themselves with pride and excitement. They even asked when I would be making the next chart.

Now I’m not saying every day is perfect because of this incentive chart. Hell, no. But, it has given me a new way to encourage my girls to jump in and help out around the house and I have to tell you, it has made for one happier mama.

And a happier mama is well worth $13.20.

So what about your chart tricks? Are you wondering what’s taken me so long to figure this all out?

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