Behavior Charts Don’t Work For My Kid
Linda Wechter-Ashkin Ph.D NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
One of the main parts of my practice is to help parents to learn the best way to handle their children’s unwanted behaviors. One of my go-to’s is a behavior chart. I ask the parents to come up with a few behaviors that they really want to see their children change and then we come up with rewards for obedience and consequences for lack of obedience. I usually limit parents to two to four behaviors because behavior change is not an easy thing to accomplish. Many parents want to change more than that, but I know that if they choose too many things to change the system will fail. I send them away with a pretty chart, clear expectations, and clear rewards and consequences. I remind them that they have to be 100 percent consistent and most feel up for the challenge.
Two weeks later many parents come back and say the system didn’t work for my child. I did everything you told me to do but it just didn’t work. Then I ask some questions. Were you 100 percent consistent with rewards and consequences? They respond yes. Did you stick to focusing only on the undesired behaviors we chose and leave everything else alone for now? They respond yes. Were you calm and concise in your reminders and redirection? They respond yes. And then I bring in the tattlers, the children. They can’t wait to tell me when daddy lost his temper, and mommy forgot to give them their reward, or when daddy fell asleep on the couch when he was supposed to be taking them in the pool as a reward. They also go on to talk about the reward they got even when they misbehaved because mommy was still working, and they tired her out until she gave in. And they are caught. It’s not the system that doesn’t work it’s the person running the show. And trust me if I was sitting in that same chair and my 2 little tattlers walked in, I would be busted as well.
This reminds me so much about how some people feel about God. They say I tried that, but it just didn’t work for me. I started going to church but then I lost my job and stopped going? I started reading the bible but then there were things in it that I didn’t like so I stopped reading it. I prayed so hard for my wife to survive cancer and he let her die. I tried that God thing, and it might work for you but it’s not for me. If that’s you I urge you to try again. I urge you to make a list of your unwanted behaviors and share them with God. I encourage you to make a list of the things you are hoping for and hand it to God. I urge you to pray again understanding that God is not a genie in a bottle. Sometimes what we pray for we don’t get, but that doesn’t mean that God wasn’t watching or doesn’t love you. See behavior systems work but they don’t guarantee an easy ride as a parent. And God works but that doesn’t guarantee us an easy life.