Will a Behavior Chart Help My Child Behave?

K. Emily Bond

behavior chart for toddlersIn a fit of inspiration this week, I went to my local crafts store and splurged on an assortment of crafty accoutrements all aimed at enforcing positive discipline in my 21-month-young child. I'm going to chart my son's good behavior with glitter, magic markers, and gold stars.

My older sister, who considers herself a veteran when it comes to child-rearing as she’s a.) the first of us four siblings to take it on and b.) been doing it for nearly four years, tried very hard to stifle a laugh when I told her about my creative ambitions.

She didn’t come out and say it but I could tell she thought my idea was ‘sweet’ and ‘cute,’ albeit not based in reality.

Feeling rather deflated after that, and distracted by my son’s biting issue, I’ve put my chart aside. I am not giving up, though, just ... contemplating the whys rather than the hows. 

I'll chart him ... and I'll do it with a little PMS.

Praise: Genuine praise (not that fake stuff we sometimes do) is a great way to shape positive behavior in toddlers because -- like me with my older sister, perhaps -- we all love pleasing others to some degree or another. Instead of saying ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ to commend ‘good’ behavior like they’re golden terriers, a bright and shiny gold star is that much more exciting.

Motivators: According to Dr. Sears, children (like the grownups they will become) respond really well to the pleasure principle: “Behavior that's rewarding continues, behavior that's unrewarding ceases.” I’m wary of relying too much on things like food and toys to reward good behavior for fear of junking up my house or their diet. I rather like the idea of vacuuming up glitter at the end of a really good day.

Selective ignoring: Toddlers are emotional geniuses and complete hams. If they could be the center of attention for all of their waking hours, they would be as happy as pigs in you-know-what. But we adults have jobs and personal needs that include showers and the like. They know this and try really hard to push our buttons with frustrating behaviors, like banging their heads on whatever hard surface abounds, so they get the fleeting satisfaction of seeing you totally freak out. Trust me, I’ve talked to his doctor; my son knows exactly what he’s doing.

So the handy thing about charts is you get to turn your back on push-button annoyances and dole out unicorns for helping mommy with x, y, and z.

Let’s hear it for PMS! Taking back acronyms one mommy at a time.

Do you chart your toddler's good behavior?


Image via Jessica.Tam/Flickr

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