Being a parent is not easy. No matter the age of your children, there will always be meltdowns, power-struggles, and tension-filled negotiations.
We all want our children to be well-behaved, obedient, and kind. Current research shows that positive reinforcement can be the most effective in gaining cooperation. Harvard University conducted a study found in the journal Science that found rewards were strongly associated with compliance and cooperation. Chances are, at one point or another, you have used some sort of rewards chart with your kids.
What about for yourself?
A good friend of mine introduced me to the notion and I had an “Ah-ha! Why didn’t I think of that?” moment. We are so quick to pounce on our children’s bad behaviors, but sometimes ignore our own negative tendencies like:
- giving the guilt-trip
- losing patience
- getting angry
Introducing the Parent Reward Charts!
The concept is exactly the same as a child’s reward chart and is meant to be done alongside your children. From young children to teens, this is a great experiment in promoting positive behavior for the whole family.
How it works:
1) First do a little self-inspection. What do you struggle with in parenting? What would you like to work on or improve? You can involve your children on the decision as well. As a high school teacher, I learned that rules were much more respected and followed when the whole class got to choose them, instead of being mandated by the teacher. As a family, have a discussion on what behaviors you would like to see in each other.
2) Next, choose a particular rewards chart. There are hundreds of free charts out there. Just do an internet search for “reward charts” and you’ll find many different options.
I liked this one that said, “I will try my best to _____.” The more specific you are, the better. My dear friend wanted to work on yelling less so her chart would read, “I will try my best not to yell.”
This one is great too. It says, “Every time I ___________, I can mark my chart!” You might fill-in-the-blank with play with the kids, listen to what you say, spend 30 minutes with you, talk for 15 minutes about your day, etc.
3) Choose your fabulous rewards! We let our kids choose rewards like going to the zoo, out for ice cream, or a special sleep over. What little splurge would you enjoy working towards? I chose a nice pedicure!
4) Then decide who/how/when your chart will be marked. You can have your kids color in the bubbles each time they notice you doing something good, or decide if you earned your sticker for the day. The most important part is to focus on the positive. This teaches children to look for the good in you and each other.
I found that my kids were extremely generous with their rewards. It absolutely melted my heart to hear them singing my praises when I successfully loaded the dishwasher or poured their cereal. It taught me a valuable lesson that I should be more generous in my compliments to their good behavior. I’m not going to lie, it was also extremely rewarding to be noticed for once for all those banal chores!
She may just love coloring the smiley faces, but I sure earned a lot of them. “Mom, thank you for giving me a hug! You earn a smiley face!” And, “Oh mom, you brushed your teeth, you get a sticker!” Believe me, that really can be a big accomplishment some days.
A favorite positive reinforcer is the “Poof Ball Jar.” I usually just do it for my two toddlers, but this time added a jar for myself. Each time someone does something kind, thoughtful, or helpful, we put a few poof balls in our jar. When my little ones share a toy or listen to my instructions, I get out the poof balls and let them put a few in.
You can do this with any age, it seriously never gets old. As a teenager, I would do about anything for an extra 30 minutes tacked on to my curfew! And as a teacher, this was a miracle-worker for getting 16-year-olds to stay on task.
It’s kind of nice hearing how great you are instead of all of the things you did wrong. What a valuable lesson for parents to learn! This experiment taught me that:
- I shouldn’t ask my children to do things I’m not willing to do myself.
- a compliment can make all the difference in the world.
- when the whole family focuses on the good in each other, there is less arguing and more laughter.
Unfortunately, a lot of times as parents we focus on the negative. Stop teasing your brother! Can’t you just study a little more? Your room is such a pig-stye!
Parenting is full of ups and downs but the fact is, we are all trying. Our children too. They want so badly for us to be watching when they accomplish their successes. Whether it be their first somersaults, the way they made their bed by themselves, how they pushed a sibling in the swing, ate all of their green beans, got 100% on a spelling test, befriended a peer, scored a goal, or made it home by curfew three times in a row.
Our families should be our best friends and our biggest fans. Root for each other’s successes, whether they be tiny or grandiose and everyone wins!