Reward Chart or Daddy’s Leverage?

Last Saturday I’d had enough of my often devilish-but-sometimes-sweet 3 year-old son, Everett.

As if possessed by the ghost of a Chucky Doll, by mid-afternoon Everett was in full constant-tantrum mode.  If he wasn’t hot, he was hungry or tired or ready to go.

The only defense for my overly emotional little terror was to split time gracefully cheering for my older son’s soccer team while intermittently threatening Everett with an early bedtime or having to walk home.

Nothing seemed to work.  Unfortunately this has been par for the course lately.

In fact, on most nights I’m counting down the minutes to teeth brushing time at 8 p.m.  That is really quite a sad existence if I take the time to think about it.

Things have to change and a quick Google search provided us a life-line – the suggestion of creating a “Reward Chart.”

The concept seems simple enough – providing a daily, visual way of praising Everett’s desired behaviors.

My wife is a genius with graphics so she whipped up a chart quickly.  We even had Everett name the martians he’s chasing to Saturn (the place where he gets his weekly reward).  Their names, by the way, are LuLu and NuNu.

The Reward Chart that now hangs on our kitchen wall (Sept. 2016)

The Reward Chart that now hangs on our kitchen wall (Sept. 2016)

In typical Good-Bad Dad style, though, I seem to be confusing the “Reward Chart” with a “You’d Better Not” billboard.

Although my son hasn’t freaked out in a couple of days, there has not been a “Reward Chart” day where I haven’t used its presence to my advantage – as leverage for punishment.

It should go without saying that doing so is a no-no per all referenced Google searches.

I’ve been schooled that the chart should be aimed at correcting one behavior each week in order to be effective.

For example, the behavior for us to correct this week is crying and screaming (these count as one behavior when done in perfect sequence each and every time).

In typical GBD style, I’m trying to be more efficient – using the chart to correct EVERYTHING that seems to get in the way of a perfect, well-mannered little gentleman.  Of course, I can’t settle for only correcting one behavior each week.

When he doesn’t eat over his cereal bowl I say, “Everett, if you slobber milk all over the table, I’ll move the ship down to #1!”

Or, when Everett strolls out of bed to ask for a blanket after being tucked in an hour ago, I scold, “If you get out of bed again, there is no way you’re getting to Saturn.  I’m telling LuLu and NuNu!”

With each time I use the chart to my advantage its real, weekly mission blurs.

In acknowledging that I’m clouding Everett’s virtual space exploration, I have formed a few ideas of how to better weather the devious 3’s.

I’m fairly sure that reacting to a tantrum with a tirade of my own is the ultimate dad-fail.  I need to calm down before popping off.

Just as ineffective is trying to correct all faulty behaviors at once.  The full-court press only overwhelms my little guy.

Maybe I need a Dad version of a “Reward Chart.”  My version might also end in space – the vast, green space of the fairway of a golf course.

I’ll dream of that day while understanding that expecting my 3 year-old to be a perfect gentleman is as unlikely as one of my drives actually settling in a fairway.

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One Comment

  1. Matthew Peterson

    Reward chart will work for a week, but when he loses interest, it will be back to square one. Immediate Consequences are the best answer. It is a little more tough to do that in public when things are going on, but if you can find a consequence that will work, it will give you the long term fix you are looking for.

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