A few months back I told you how we used behavior charts to help our Ethiopian children learn what was (and wasn’t) acceptable behavior. In most cases behavior charts are used to grade an overall day, but that wouldn’t work in our situation. If our kids had been terrors all day but were perfect at bedtime before we handed out the ticket reward, they just wouldn’t understand why they weren’t getting a reward when they were being so good. In our case, the behavior charts really drove behavior at a specific moment, and the most important moment was nighttime since that was reward time. The behavior charts helped us get through bedtime in those early months when it was so rough, but they soon lost their effectiveness during the day. And that was fine back then because we needed all the help we could get at bedtime.
Eventually our bedtime routine smoothed out and we needed help during the day. We needed a way to make them clearly understand that it was not okay to hit each other, or to tell us to shut up, or to cover every square inch of our house with an article of clothing (I swear, they plot to see if they can have more clothes outside their closets than in). I’m not quite sure how it came about, but we started the “X System.”
We have a whiteboard in the kitchen that looks like this:
Every time the kids act out they get a warning- “Do that again and you’re going to get a X”. If they repeat the behavior, they get a X next to their names. The number of Xs they have at the end of the day drives how many tickets they receive. Zero Xs is three tickets, 1 or 2 Xs is two tickets, and so on. They can trade their tickets in for things like games, ice cream, or cash money.
The first day we implemented this, Smiles got 9 Xs and Diva got 3. It was a rough- but typical at the time- day.
Today Smiles got 0 Xs and Diva got 1. That has become our new typical day (well actually, Diva usually has 0 and Smiles usually has 1 or 2 Xs. But you get the point).
It only took a couple days for the kids to understand the system well enough that they would randomly say- in their still limited English- “Zero X, Three Tickets. One X, Two Tickets. Two X, Two Tickets. Three X, One Ticket. Four X, One Ticket. Five X, No Ticket.” We’ve been doing this for six weeks or so now and it’s still working very well. We still have rough moments, but 95% of what would have been tough situations are now solved with the threat of a X.
Last night my parents watched the kids so that the husband and I could enjoy a date night. They took them to Chuck E Cheese and pretty much spoiled them rotten. This morning the kids came downstairs with their ticket envelopes. Diva wanted ice cream. Smiles wanted $1 for his. I made the trades. Then Smiles wanted another $1. I knew he didn’t have that many tickets so did a little prying- he saved ALL his tickets from Chuck E Cheese in his envelope and thought he could trade them all in for rewards! Smart guy thought he beat the system but didn’t realize his momma is even smarter 🙂