Tuesday, June 24, 2008

heart chart

We've been in a horrible cycle with Bug as he has regressed into a new phase of No! (with the whine) again. I disliked this stage when we first encountered it. He is, to just say it plainly, stubborn. Since our first requests to the boy, four years ago, we have learned to work around our needs and try to never confront him head on. He sits himself down in the mud and just will not budge. The more you ask, bribe, threaten (and I'm pretty good at my follow-through) the more he squirms himself deeper into the mud. Recently even reasonable requests have met an adamant no! reply. Sometimes he answers no! before actually hearing our words and misses out on something good or at least not bad.

Bug: I don't want the rest of my banana.
Me: Can you bring it here so I--
Bug: No!
Me: ...can eat it?
Bug (who was so busy repeating his stance and didn't hear me) starts crying: No! No! I don't wanna...!

I'm fed up. He has driven me to my own boiling point too often and I lose my patience, yelling at him too often. So, I pulled out an old idea that had worked for Pook, possibly at about age four also.

The heart chart. The heart chart is just a paper with a grid on it (ours is six boxes across- this could vary). Each time he does something nice, either voluntarily or when asked "please?" he can earn a heart, simply drawn with marker. If I have to count or discipline, I will put a toy/item/privilege of his into time out. He has to earn six hearts to earn it back. If nothing has gone to time out, he'll get a reward (yet to be determined since we just started yesterday and there was already something in time out). I added in that he needs three hearts a day just to go swimming, and he's buying into that just fine. (He'd have to sit on the bench for five minutes while his brother and friends started playing. I can't take away the whole swim time in this heat. Plus, he is only four.)

Day One
Me: Bug, will you please set the table?
Bug: No!
Me: If you had said yes, you could have earned a heart.
(repeat a dozen times for various requests)

Day Two
Me: Who spilled the pencil jar? Will someone pick them up?
Bug: I'll do it! I didn't make the mess and I'm still cleaning it up!


Days Three through Five
Me: Did you say "ok, Mama?!"
Bug: NO!
Me: Wow, I thought you did and I was about to give you a heart. Oh well.
Bug (implied): I don't care. So there.

Day Six
Bug finally got six hearts in a row while having no toys in time out. I gave him six Skittles and he was thrilled. The voluntary helping has returned.

Days Recently
He sometimes denies having been polite and he sometime doesn't want to help out, but he's earned candies twice out of eight chances. (Meaning, six times when he got six hearts, there were toys in time out and twice he got a treat instead.) I can see improvement. He sometimes asks first if he'll get a heart if he does something I ask, which is annoying but ok for now. I'm going to need to start being a bit more random about the hearts so I can eventually fade them out. I'll keep up the chart until he stops checking it. It may be six weeks or more, but I don't care how long it takes. If it starts a new habit and breaks that old No! routine, I'll be able to do it forever. Life is clearly better around here. And just in time. Camp is making us all tired and cranky.


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