That’s going to be my answer the next time someone asks me my parenting strategy. Sure, we try to do a little Love and Logic, but mostly it’s bribery.
Why? Because it freaking works. A friend from the adoptive world recently told me about behavior charts. So I drew up these little things for each of the big kids:
The clothespin serves as a barometer of their behavior. Really, you’re supposed to do this once or twice a day based on their behavior over a certain time period, but that is a little conceptual for us at this point. So this judges their behavior at any given moment. When they act up- hitting a sibling, crying about bedtime, speaking with a hateful tone- the clothespin moves down. When it moves down boy do these kids whip into shape. I pretty much feel like I can get them to do anything with a good attitude right now. At the end of the day if they are happy and nice then they get 2 tickets put into their matching envelopes. When they have 10 tickets they get ice cream. We just started this a few days ago and haven’t yet reached the reward yet, but these kids do NOT want their clothespin at the bottom. In fact, Smiles is insistent that his is not just in the happy box but is at the very far left of the sheet. He wouldn’t be happy with this picture.
It doesn’t always solve things immediately, but we have seen such an improvement in behavior. Two examples:
A couple of nights ago Smiles did NOT want to go to bed. He was fighting us with everything he had. He wouldn’t lay down, we would carry him to bed, he would get back up. It was a disaster. He didn’t get his tickets that day and Diva did. The next night? Bedtime was the smoothest we have ever had. He made sure to let us know throughout the entire bedtime routine how happy he was. The following night he wasn’t quite so eager, but he pulled it together enough to earn two tickets.
The Diva fits have nearly stopped even before we started these charts. What used to be an hour long fit is now 10 minutes. It’s really cool to see her adjusting- her eyes used to be filled with fear and sadness and now they are filled with joy. But, today she had a fit because I didn’t do her hair the way she wanted it. She yelled at me, stormed off and sat by herself for awhile. I moved her clothespin down. She tore up the sheet. I made another one. She went off by herself again and when she knew I was looking she would throw a blanket or a pillow or a book on the floor. I told her I loved her after each thing she threw which only made her more mad. After a bit of time she wondered over and looked at her sheet. She said “Diva happy.” I told her if she was happy she needed to say she was sorry. She hugged me, apologized, and then walked back over and picked up the mess she made. Then she was back to her normal happy self. THIS NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED A FEW WEEKS AGO! It was a major win and a huge sign of her progress. I nearly did a cartwheel.
We’ve included Wiggles in the fun too. I think he’s too young to understand these charts, but each time he pottys like a big boy he gets a ticket of his own.
I think these charts could be helpful for any child, not just ones that are adjusting to adoption. It’s still early for us but I’m anxious to see how they evolve over time. I can see us offering different rewards for different amounts of tickets- maybe 10 is ice cream, 20 tickets is a later bedtime, etc etc. Right now we’re keeping it simple and it’s working like a charm.
Bribery. Best parenting tactic there is.