Looking to establish a behavior management system this year? I finally found something I love! STARS!!!!!!
For the last two years I have transitioned from full-time teacher to full-time mom. I really thought I would be better at managing children since I… have years of experience!…taught preschool through 8th grade at some point in the last 15 years…have way more professional development that the average parent. Well, my son has not given me any reason at all to be big headed. After struggling with potty training for two years, and a seemingly relentless determination to do just whatever he wanted, my husband and I found something that worked.
The way this works: Isaac gets a star every time he does something good! This could be following directions, doing chores, displaying kindness, thoughtfulness, or a good attitude. If he does something specifically naughty, he loses a star. The stars are kept in a jar where he can collect them. We have a list of rewards he can redeem them for, and a hundreds chart to help him count the stars. I drew the chart to fit the size of the stars.
He LOVES it!!!!! A few reasons I think this works;
He is receiving something concrete in his little hand, that he can hold, count, and trade for things he wants. Some of our rewards are organic suckers, gum, choosing special activities, x-box time, a 30-minute PBS show, toys from the dollar store, etc. The focus is on his GOOD behavior and he can see his efforts adding up to something REAL. Since bad behavior loses stars, it is more like the badness is forgotten and he can get back to focusing on the GOOD things he can do to earn more stars.
I love that this process is training him to build good habits. I love the opportunity for discussion and teachable moments that this brings. When he has an attitude about following a direction, I don’t just lecture him about how important this is or that is, I simply say, “I am going to give stars to boys who listen and say, ‘Okay Mom, I’m going to do that right now.'” He’s four, so he’s at the age where life coaching happens all day long. Not an hour goes by where I am not instructing him on how to act, speak, walk in the house, be gentle with the cats, share with his sister, etc. When he’s tempted to get pouty and feel sorry for himself because he can’t do what he wants I can say, “A good attitude means that you say, ‘Oh well, I guess I can do that later.” I have him repeat it to me, and then he gets a star for practicing a good attitude. 🙂 LOVE IT!!!
How do I know this is working? His spontaneous good behavior! Here’s a cute story; my son had earned 5 stars and was about to choose a show to watch. In his excitement he ran to the TV, snatched the remote form his little sister’s hand and inadvertently knocked her head into the entertainment center. Great, I thought. I can’t ignore this behavior. So, he immediately lost a star for pushing his sister. No show. He was hysterical. He had just done a few chores to earn those stars. I sent him to his room screaming and crying uncontrollably. I went to put the laundry away and he eventually stopped crying. All of a sudden I hear the water running downstairs and think, Oh no now my toddler is playing in the sink unsupervised! I run downstairs to find my son washing the dishes in the sink. I said, “Isaac, what are you doing?” I knew what he was doing, but his response made me SO PROUD! He looked down with a coy little smirk and said, “I just said to myself, if I do something good I can get another star.” The self-control it takes to calm oneself down enough to think and act in a constructive new way is something we all work on, at every age! If my 4 year-old can be trained into practicing this method of self-redirection, then so can lots of kids. I cannot express the joy and pride I felt at that moment. This WORKS!!!
When I was in the classroom I tried to use a lot of positive praise, but I didn’t make the rewards concrete enough. When I go back, I definitely intend to do it! The benefits are just too awesome to let it slide!
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This previous post reflects my struggle before I found some success with this method. Read More.