I am a big, huge believer in proactive parenting. I believe setting limits, rules, and expectations for our kids is a really good thing. It's good for them and also for me. I love knowing how to follow through with things, how to stay consistent. And I love even more that they are learning to make good choices and be responsible kids.
That being said, I am not a huge believer in negative attention as a parenting tool. I think (at least my kids) they get enough of that just by existing. I notice in our family that the less consistent we are, the more negative attention and reinforcement we give our kids. It seems like when you have clear guidelines and expectations, everyone knows what's going on, how to behave, and how our family functions. We are all happy and harmonious for the most part. But when things get out of control - maybe we get off schedule because we are too busy, sick, etc. For whatever reason, sometimes we get inconsistent, and things seem to spiral very quickly out of control. That's when I seem to turn into a "mean mommy".
I don't particularly like "mean mommy" myself, and I know my kids don't. Something that really seems to help when "mean mommy" wants to come out more is this little doozy from Brite. (We also have the book and CD at the bottom and they are fantastic!) It's truly a great mother's helper. It's called a "Land of Obey" chart, but I like to use it for many things. You are supposed to move the square forward when you notice your kids obeying. I've also been known to move the train forward for helping out around the house, doing jobs without being asked, getting along well with siblings, sharing, going to sleep at bedtime/naptime, etc. Hey, the more positive reinforcement and attention the better!
Here is a picture of our chart:
*One other thing I would like to mention though, is that I did also tweak the rules in the sense that I matter-of-factly, non-emotionally, move the train backwards when there is a problem. When someone tells a lie, sneaks into things, doesn't mind after multiple reminders, has problems at bedtime, etc. I never threaten to move it back, I just do it. When I move it forward, I try to stay consistent with that guideline also - with the exception of bedtime. At bedtime, I always remind them how many squares (it's usually two - if I think they need a little extra motivation, I will offer three spaces) they can get if they go right to sleep without playing. Most of the time it works and they go right to sleep. It they don't, I take away a square, and so on an so forth. I will move it backwards at bedtime if need be. They always get to a point where they start to realize that they are not choosing the behavior that's in their best interest and decide to settle down and sleep.
This has really been a great help around here. It's great too because I can offer train squares away from home, let the babysitters and Daddy use it, etc. It's so versatile. There are a few "train stops" on the chart where you can get a treat. The treat is usually a little candy - a couple M & Ms, a dumdum, a few marshmallows. But sometimes it will be 10 minutes of Donkey Kong, or doing a craft. The trick it to keep it fresh and keep it simple. It's like a little pat on the back and extra motivation to keep on going.
When our boys reach the end of the chart, they get something special. I have a prize bucket with really "awesome" prizes (Chinese yoyos, Ring pops, harmonica, slinky, flashlights, matchbox cars, trio blocks, etc. I do NOT like "junky" toys for this because they are working very hard to earn them and I want them to have something that's going to last (Kolton chose a little tape measure last time, and it has been played with every day since. It's come places with us, and he's even slept with it. Micah chose a ring pop and he was bummed about his choice once the sucker disappeared. I wasn't sure what to do, but decided to leave it at that. He is working VERY hard right now to earn that lizard he was debating choosing last time. He asks how close he is every day. I'm so proud of what this is teaching him.) and I will pay a little extra to get them something that they'll really like. Or sometimes we'll go somewhere like Chuck E. Cheese or Jungle Jim's or even just feeding the ducks at the park. I try to keep it simple, but very special. I love how proud of themselves they get at the end.
Here is a picture of our prize bucket:
It's fun to see it "click" when we've done it a few times and now they get what is going on and want to move their trains faster. I never hesitate to move them, although I typically don't move them when they ask me to.
This is a simple, versatile, fabulous tool for our family and it does wonders for obedience, bedtime, and just overall harmony in our home. I just thought I'd share this little treasure with you in case you'd like to try it too. I'm a big believer in positive parenting and this has been a fun, simple way to do more of it. It's also been great for learning "justice and mercy" which are the values next month over at Power of Moms
I hope you enjoy the "Land of Obey" chart, and I would welcome any other suggestions from books, games, activities, etc. Anything and everything would be worth sharing. I am having a little tougher time with this value (I think I am rusty from my "writing vacation" I took while I've been sick) and I would love to hear input from other moms - about all ages of children - about what works for you to teach the value of "Justice and Mercy". I might even have a little prize up my sleeve for anyone who has input. ;) We parents, and especially mothers, need to be a team and collaborate all our ideas so we can help each other out. Think of how incredibly fabulous that would be!
Either way, feel free to check out the chart (it's even on sale right now). I hope you love it as much as I do. It's a keeper around here for sure!