I still can’t believe that we just hit the ONE year mark of parenting FIVE kids! For that whole year we have been using the same chart system…in fact now I can say that we have been using it for OVER one year! 😉 That should give you enough motivation to at least finish reading this post to the end! Any parent knows that just sticking with something for longer than a few weeks can be a challenge. While I will admit that we were pretty darned determined to see this thing through, there were a couple of things that made it extra handy.
We talk about “consequences” a lot in our house. Mainly, that you get consequences when you do something that you aren’t suppose to do, but we are trying to get better at explaining that there are always good consequences as well. In our house, everyone knows what “losing a smiley face” means. It means that you didn’t do something that day that was on your responsibility chart and therefore you lose a smiley face.
Last year I came across these Melissa & Doug brand responsibility charts. I was excited about the durability and permanency of them but also the fact that they were easy to customize. Below you can see a new chart in the original package with all of the pieces that it comes with (we are saving this one for our two year old who hasn’t been quite old enough to grasp the concept.) In fact, just like the packaging says, I would recommend this for ages 3 and up.
We love the pre-made magnets as well as the fact that it comes with two blank magnets. You can use a white board marker on the blank magnets or on the board itself to customize it! There are some that you might not use. For instance, we don’t use the “take care of a pet” one, but we found enough magnets that we DO use that this specific chart works really well for us. We especially love that it includes attitudes & actions, which was something we were looking for.
All four of our oldest kids have their charts hanging in our breakfast nook area. This is a great spot to keep them in front of the kids and easy to access so that we don’t “forget” to remove a smiley face. It’s important to know that you are a special piece to completing the family, especially as an adoptive family we have found it so important to emphasize that in any way that we can. So what better way to show that you are part of the family than getting to have your own chart with your name on it hanging in the kitchen!
For each child we have tried to customize their chart based on age. All of the kids have the “show respect” goal. This is our go to smiley to take down if someone is being disrespectful. Our older kids also know that if they come home after school with a note from their teacher that they weren’t listening then they lose this smiley face as well.
- If the kids aren’t sharing then they lose their “share” smiley face.
- Our oldest daughter has a magnet labeled “piano”. If she doesn’t practice her predetermined amount of 15 min. per day then she loses her “piano” smiley face.
- Both of our school aged kids have a “homework” magnet that a smiley comes down for if homework doesn’t get completed (or not completed with the right attitude).
- Our oldest daughter and son switch every week on who wipes the table/sweeps with who wipes down the bathrooms. So each one has a responsibility that they either get to keep the smiley face for doing it or it comes down if they don’t do it. (Update: We now have the kids keep the same job for months which keeps things much easier.)
The bottom of the board has become a great space for really anything that you want. Besides losing smiley faces, our “go to” consequence for our four year olds is losing movies temporarily (“screen time”) or losing snack temporarily. How do you stay consistent once you tell them they don’t get snack? What if a child lost a privilege when the other parent wasn’t there to hear about it? Those are the reasons that we code any additional consequences. I say code because we abbreviate things to make it easy and so that our kids don’t get embarrassed if someone came into the kitchen and understood what was on their chart. Now that I am about to explain the code, your lips are sealed. 🙂 If you decoded what was written above, “xs = wed” It means, x = no, s = snack, wed is the day that this applies until. I explain here how the kids are rewarded for keeping their smiley faces…shiny coins are included in that reward!
Here are a couple tips to keep in mind if you use these charts.
1) It is way easier to start with all of the smileys on top and remove ones as needed then to start with them on the bottom and put seven up each day. (We learned that the hard way. We know that less work means that you are more likely to stick with it.)
2) The charts don’t necessarily come with the same size string at the top for hanging. So if you are hanging more than one and hoping for a straight row then I would suggest placing them on the wall first and don’t just measure multiple nails out in a row.
3) Visibility is the key so make sure you hang these charts somewhere that is seen daily and easy to access. That way your kids can remind you about them and you can remind your kids about them.
4) Remember that charts, and other things like them, are for training in something and not just for accomplishing a task. The goal isn’t just to change behaviors and responsibilities but to help train their heart and character through intentionally working on these things with them and having grace too. Ideally you would want to get to a place where you don’t need charts for behaviors and only to help them track things they are responsible for. But we’re taking it one step at a time!