Dante's Reward Chart

The Joys of your first reward chart

I may have mentioned before that I think being 3 is a particularly challenging age. You're a big boy now, at least compared to your baby brother and sister. But not really old enough to be left on your own anywhere near anything remotely dangerous for more than a millisecond. What I'm trying to get at is that you're not very good at doing what you're told. But you are quite good at saying 'No'.

Now, my 3 year old, Dante, isn't exactly 'naughty'. He just doesn't like doing what he's told. I think he forgets. Quite frequently. Every 5 seconds or so. Talking to him makes me feel like a broke record. "Dante, sit down, put your bottom on the chair" Repeatedly as he sprawls himself over the table at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or "stop playing spiderman and get on with eating". Or he goes off to put his shoes in his cupboard at bath time. After undressing one of the babies, I call out and ask him what he's doing. "My don't know" he replies. It appears that he has some rather distracting books in his room.

He's just at that age when he knows what he's supposed to do, but doesn't really understand exactly why. "Dante, what are you doing? Take your hands off Celeste's neck." "Making her cough" he explains.

There were several areas that needed a bit of attention in Dante's world. Firstly, his behaviour at meal times. Sprawling, jumping about, not eating his vegetables, shouting, bellowing, hollering. You name it. Secondly, he has a tendency not to go to the toilet. He tends to hold on and then have a little accident and then rushes to the toilet. When prompted to go to the toilet, he claims he doesn't need to go and it turns into a battle. And getting dressed and undressed in the morning and at bath time can be slightly challenging.

A reward chart

A reward chart

Reward chart to the rescue! It's his first time that he's a reward chart by himself. (I remember using lots of reward charts when Galen was a similar age.) He decided that he wanted a castle with knights and a dragon. So, I drew him a castle with knights and a dragon and he coloured it in. After he'd finished colouring the castle green (doors, windows, princess and all). And proceeded to colour the first knight green, I asked if he'd like to use another colour. "No, mummy, but my going to colour the dragon's fire red" (and the rest of the dragon.) Well, who am I to argue, it's his reward chart.

A reward chart

Reward chart complete. It's quite abstract, not exactly the style I would have gone for. Not quite sure how it ended up with a bite out of the side or why Galen wrote "Galen, Dante, Mimi" on it. But Dante is happy with it.

We reward points (in the form of 'stars' or 'hot air balloons' as those are the little shiny things that I have. I'm running low on stars, so pushing the hot air balloons.) Rewards are awarded for taking off your night time nappy without complaining, going to the toilet before you get wet pants, eating meals nicely, getting dressed and undressed nicely, putting his shoes away and going to bed nicely. And anything else that he does particularly well, such as eat tomatoes or try soup (he doesn't do soup.)

After a day, I realised that we were being slightly random with the going to the toilet and that he needed to be persuaded to go at least 5 times a day (meal times and once in-between.) This way it serves to remind us to remind him as well.

At the end of the day, before getting into bed, we add up all his stars or hot air balloons. He starts reeling them off with his fingers in that "I'm making a list voice" high intonation at the end of each object. But his list is generally only 2 long. "My took my nappy off, um…."

Thankfully Galen is very excited about his reward chart as well. And being his older brother, Dante likes to do everything that Galen does. We make a bit of a thing of it, count all the points (and remind him why he didn't get points for some things). We stick down the stars or balloons. And if the line reaches the castle, he gets an extra big star (there are no extra big hot air balloons they found out yesterday.) And then they run along all excited to show daddy "look daddy, Dante got to the castle!).

I know, it's all slightly arbitrary, but I think it just helps to focus everyone's mind on his behaviour. It's as if we're all egging him on to behave well. And it gives him an incentive to behave nicely.

Previously, I've offered more tangible rewards but this time I haven't felt the need to. I suppose it depends on the age of your child, but I feel that at 3, my children didn't really get the correlation between each point awarded for behaving well and the prize they would get. They understood that they would get a prize, but that didn't make them change their behaviour. If you say, " get undressed and then you'll get a star so you can get 10 stars and get your sweetie tonight" (Or even, "if you don't do it, you won't get your sweetie".) It didn't make them get undressed. But they still expected their sweetie.

His behaviour isn't perfect. He's still a 3 year old. But I do think reward charts help him to focus his rather forgetful mind on what he's supposed to do. And I think it helps remind me that although he knows how to do all these things, he needs helps not only remembering but following through on all these activities.