A Positive Plan

I think I have mentioned this before.  Kids have a way of asking for what they need.  If we parents, teachers, and caregivers listen closely we can hear it even when they don't use words.  Then last week, my wise 9 year old, who just began a new school program after Christmas break, came home last week and wrote an outline for a positive behavior plan for our family.  He calls it "Mommy Points".   (Yes, the same child who just began writing spontaneously at home -like when he used to when he was confident and happy- for the first time in about 2 years- Thank You Awesome Teachers!)  The plan is similar to the one they use in his class. 

Ok, kiddo.  I get the message.  What we are doing here at home isn't working is it?  Our family has been swallowed in a negative spiral, a whirl pool, swoosh, down we go!  For the first time since we met, we argue on a regular basis and it is always about the behaviors, "Where did they come from?", "How do we get rid of them?", "Why does this feel so hard?",  "Your idea isn't working!"  Then a couple months ago we recieved an answer.  A psychologist we were talking to told us "Your kids require Big League- Fenway Park parenting skills." ( Umm. . .where do we get those???)  "Whereas most parents can get by with minor league skills, some even just high school baseball type skills."

So, last week, my 9 year old writes the sketch for a plan based on his school setting.  He outlined three main components: 
  1. Ways to earn points (Ex:  first time listening, helping without being asked, make bed, put away laundry, polite talk at meal time, setting clothes out the night before, empty dishwasher, talking face to face rather than bellering, getting homework done right after school. . .)
  2. Fines (Ex:  hitting, bad words, potty talk, interrupting)
  3. Things to buy with points (Ex:  choose a supper, or dessert, print 2 pictures, movie night, special game with Mom or Dad, special craft, new dsi game--trying to stay away from monetary rewards, but this is a huge pointer to encourage saving)
Now I have not been a big fan of reward systems, we have tried star charts of all sorts, but they just haven't worked longterm (for us that means more than a day)  We end up all feeling frustrated because none of us feel the success that is "supposed to happen".   This time, though, I am optimistic.  For starters, we are on day 3 and everyone has felt some bit of success, including me.  Remember, I am still learning too!  After all I need to beef up my skills to survive in the big league!  to do that, and I need to see some positive results as much as the kids do.

To get started I had to take some time to fill in the bullets Joey left for me on the "Ways to Ern" page.  That is when I knew that the reason the other charts failed was that they were too focused, there was no room for the kids and us parents to see success.  So this time my list of ways to ern points includes many different areas from manners, and behaviors to chores and routine tasks.  A lot of them I know they already do, they are worth 10 or 15 points.  Important things I want them to learn are worth 30 to 50 points.  But there are fewer of those, so we can get it.  Once the new things are learned I can adjust the points to a lower number to reflect that this behavior or habbit is now expected, and I will choose something new to work on.  Or, rather, the kids will show me what to work on next. (insert smile here)

An online friend pointed out that fines for innappropriate behavior could send some kids over the edge on a bad day.  I will keep this in mind.  My guess is we will only use fines if a behavior gets really out of hand and we need a double whammy of a fine if  he does it, and bonus points if he doesn't.  I guess we will have to see how it goes.  On day 3 we are still all on good behavior. 

Then of course the spending points requires a bit of organization on my part.  I have included a range of small to medium point items that the kids can purchase that don't cost much if any money.  (still looking for more of these)  Then I thought about some big ticket items (new ds or wii game) that they could work for over time, that way I am not reaching in my pocket whenever they are doing well, and they are encouraged to save their points.

After a couple days, I have already seen an improvement in the atmosphere around here.  The kids are helping more and talking back less, and I didn't have to bring out the compost! (50pt because it is stinky)  Early days yet, I guess, but I am feeling positive about this positive "Mommy Points" plan.  Let's see if I can build up the stamina to keep it up for my Big Leaguers!

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