A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was introducing a sticker chart as a tool to encourage good behavior for Janie. Here's what the original chart looked like:
The gist of the sticker chart is this: I choose 3 behaviors--2 that Janie is already doing well, and 1 that I want her to work on. When I observe Janie doing the behavior, I praise her and announce that I am putting a sticker on her chart. (We put ours on the refrigerator.) When she asks, I let her put the sticker on the chart.
This version of catching her being good is working extremely well. After the first week of completing the chart, I printed off the exact same one. Dr. Karp, author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (the book where I got this idea), recommends working on the same skills for two weeks at a time before introducing new skills.
The skill that I wanted Janie to work on the first two weeks was waiting. We practiced this skill as much as possible. If she asked for something, I'd start to do it and say, "Oh! Mommy almost forgot! Mommy has to __________. Wait, please." Then, I'd do something like use the restroom, empty the trash, put a few dishes into the dishwasher, etc. before giving her something or helping her.
If I was in the middle of doing something that would take longer to finish before I could give her my attention, I introduced the kitchen timer. I would say, "Mommy's busy right now. You need to wait. When the timer goes 'beep, beep, beep' I can help you." By the end of the first week, I was setting the timer for 5 minutes, and I have been able to stretch her waiting to much longer. By the time she hears the "beep, beep, beep" of the timer, she's usually so absorbed with her new activity that she's forgotten about her request. As tempting as it is to act as though I forgot, I make it a point to show her that the timer has gone off and that I can help her with what she asked for. This way, she learns that waiting is something that is rewarded--even if it's just praise and she decides that she doesn't want to color anymore after all.
We're on week 4 of the sticker chart, and I've kept "waiting" and "eye drops" on there. The new skill is "getting into carseat."
Miss Daredevil Janie has decided that it's funny to try to get into the front seat of the van while I am buckling Walt into his carseat. She climbs up there, pushing the buttons and giggling because she knows she's not supposed to do that and that it's dangerous. She knows because as she's doing it, she says, "Janie, no get in front seat! It's daaaaaaaaaaangerous!"
During week 3, the first week of introducing "getting into carseat" as a skill, she continued to resist. For whatever reason, two days ago Janie decided that she's on board with getting into her carseat. When I was putting the kids into the van to go grocery shopping, Janie even said with a big grin, "Look, Mama! I buckle myself in carseat! All by myself!" Since we had been giving her over-the-top praise for getting in her carseat, she wanted me to fall all over myself seeing how she had gone above and beyond, trying to even buckle herself in. Later in the day, hours after we got home from the grocery store, Janie asked, "Mama, go in carseat again? You so proud of me?"
Of course, we'll cut back on the over-the-top praise as each skill becomes a habit, and we'll switch out those skills for new ones on the sticker chart. Janie relishes nothing more than knowing that Mommy and Daddy are proud of her. Hearing me tell Daddy about her good (or bad) behavior at the dinner table and how it made me feel has a big effect. When she sees Philip's reaction to the day's report, she'll chime in with, "I made Mommy so happy! I got in carseat all by myself!" or, "I hit Walter. Mommy was sad."
When I "gossip" about her good behavior to the stuffed animals or pretend to call Grandma on the phone to tell her all about it, she looks like she's going to burst with pride. If I "gossip" about something bad that she's doing, she almost instantly corrects it. For example, if Janie starts to act like she's going to jump into the front seat instead of her carseat, I'll say to Walt as I buckle him in, "Walt, I wish Janie got into her big girl carseat like you do. You are good at getting into your carseat!" When she hears this, she almost always starts climbing into her carseat on her own. When she sees my smile and I say, "Wow! Good choice. Thank you for getting into your carseat. When we get home, you can put a sticker on your sticker chart!" she beams.
So, 4 weeks into the sticker chart, we're still loving it and we're still reaping the rewards. At the end of each week, I present Janie with a very small surprise (a special treat or something $1 in value or less that I picked up at the store). I say, "Janie, let's look at your sticker chart. You did such a good job of getting into your carseat, waiting, and putting in your eyedrops. Mommy and Daddy are very proud of you. Since you did such a good job, here is a special surprise." Then, I present her with the little surprise. Last week, I gave her a small $.99 spiral-bound Abby (from Sesame Street) notebook. You'd think it was worth a million dollars! Once the excitement of the little surprise stops distracting her, I show her the new sticker chart for the week and say, "This week, we are going to work on _______, ________, and _________. When you _______, ________, or __________, we'll put a sticker on your chart." Then, I ask her in my best cheerleader voice, "Can you do it?" She gives me a big, "Yea!" and we put it up on the fridge.