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Charting: Discipline That Works!

Katy Abel   Good for Ages: 4-12.

Have you tried all your usual discipline techniques to solve a problem with your child and nothing's worked? Using a chart may be just the fresh approach you need, according to Penny Hutchins Paquette and Cheryl Gerson Tuttle, co-authors of Parenting a Child with a Behavior Problem (Lowell House Books).

When It Works: Keeping a chart, with stickers or stars to mark behavioral improvements, works well with chronic problems, like whining or messy rooms, that drive parents crazy. Among other things, Penny Paquette notes, charting teaches delayed gratification, "that you don't automatically get things because you're cute, but because you earned it and waited for it." In terms of effectiveness, charts and time-outs are polar opposites: Time out doesn't work when you use it all the time, while charts never work unless you do!

Why It Works: A chart is a "visual cue" for kids; they don't just hear complaints or praise, they can actually see change. It's a way to get them involved in the discipline strategy; they can help make the chart or perhaps choose a reward.

When It Doesn't Work: Keeping a chart can be a difficult task for kids with attention difficulties; lots of parental involvement is needed. Parents also need to assess their own schedules; if you start a chart and don't have time to keep it up, it undercuts the message that behavioral change is important. Finally, don't start 17 charts. Your child may whine, leave dirty socks lying around, and forget to do his homework, but focus on just one behavior problem at a time.

Caution: Don't promise a trip to Disney World in return for a semester's worth of completed homework assignments. Even Pokemon cards or candy bars are the wrong incentives, Paquette and Tuttle believe. The authors urge parents to use "gifts of time" to reward kids for good behavior. A family Monopoly tournament or a prized half-hour extension on bedtime send kids the message, "When you behave nicely, I want to be with you." If there are no behavioral improvements within a week, the chart is probably not having its intended effect.

 

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Last updated: July 13, 2002.   http://professorlemetti.issmart.com/