Charting the course - FamilyEducation

Charting the course

April 07,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

When T. wakes up, she likes to get busy right away. Sometimes she'll sit at the kitchen table with crayons and start on an elaborate picture. Other times, like yesterday morning, she'll find a book and commence reading out loud to whoever might be listening. Monday morning she took pencil and paper and created a detailed behavior chart:

Her column is on the left, L.'s on the right. At the top she put the dollar amount for what she thought the two of them earned: $10/each.

"Why $10?" I asked.

She shrugged. At our house L. gets a $3 allowance/week if he stays below eight tally marks on the chart Scott and I put together for him, and $5 if he stays below five. T. gets $2/week for her chart, which includes weekly "chores" around the house. Out of necessity, we moved from a chore-type chart for L. to a positive behavior chart, with one or two chore-type activities thrown into the mix. It seems to be working, although the main incentive for him is not the money at the end of the week, but the chance to watch the entirety of his beloved weekly Clone Wars episode, without any minutes being docked for too many tally marks. What we'll do when the season ends for the summer, I don't know.

There are so many things I love about T.'s chart, like how kind and charitable she's been to L. I love that she created such positive categories, like "love" and "snuggle" and "help" and "love Annie" (the cat) and that even if L. came up short in some categories, like cleaning his room, or brushing his teeth, (or "bad words") he got full marks for all the ones that count. I also love how she built "breaks" into the charted chores/actions because, of course, no one can be perfect ALL the time.