My husband and I have had much trial and error in this parenting journey. Much of what we have tried has not worked, but one thing has worked for well over a year.
Our oldest is very strong-willed. He is constantly challenging us and needing consequences for bad behavior. He responds best to lossing privileges, but having 3 kids I found it hard to keep up with which privileges he had lost. We'd also forget to reinstate privileges. He'd do something bad and I'd go to get that favorite toy to put it in time-out and I'd realize it was already in time-out from 3 days ago when I'd taken it away and forgotten to give it back. Clearly we needed a new system!
In desperation we did a little internet research and found the Dilley Discipline Ladder. If it could work for the Dilley Sextuplets, maybe it could work for us!
We modified the rungs of the ladder for our family and here is what we came up with: I intended to someday make this chart prettier, but alas that hasn't happened. So, it is just a blue piece of construction paper with marker writing that has been slipped into a plastic sheet protector. It is clipped to the side of our fridge and has a clothespin with his name to indicate what level our son is on.
The rungs, or "levels" as we call them are:
10. Special treats, surprises, and extra privileges
9. May play video games
8. May watch TV
7. May have normal bedtime
6. May have special activites (includes playdates, dessert)
5. May play in playroom and backyard
4. May color and do other art
3. May play with toys in your room
2. May read books and do workbooks
1. Chores and thinking time only
So the way it works is that your child falls levels for bad behavior and rises for good behavior. The number of levels lost or gained is up to the parent. Most infrations around our house cause a loss of 2 levels, pushing a sibling for example, but something worse like really hard pushing with no provacation may cause a loss of 4 levels. Good things, like sharing with a sibling without being told to or helping around the house will move the child up the ladder. The great thing about the clothespin is that you always know what privileges they have! They get the privilege of the level they are on plus all other levels below.
We think it is important for the child to own the process, so we discussed levels and privileges with our son as we created the chart and incorporated some of his ideas. Also, he must move his own clothespin. If he is told to move down 2 and he refuses or argues, it becomes 3, again if he refuses or argues it increases to 4. If the parent has to move the clip, he is moved down to level 1. Another way he monitors the system himself is that he is responsible for knowing what level he is on. If he's caught playing his Leapster when he is not on the video game privilege level, he cannot plead that he didn't know and he will fall further down the ladder for taking a privilege he did not have.
When he wants a certain privilege and he is not on the right level he will come ask me what he can do to move up. He can unload the dishwasher, clean windows, wipe down toliets, and other chores that are not his regular chores.
This chart has really helped us. I love that it is not only about consequensing bad behavior but rewarding good, also! When my daughter turns 4 I plan to add another clothespin with her name on it to the chart. I think at 4 they are ready for this type of system.
After we'd used this system for a year I toured my son's new kindergarten classroom and saw that they have a chart with 3 levels (green, yellow, and red) and clothespin clips with each child's name on it to keep up with classroom behavior. Seeing this validated even more for me that this type of system works and it was great that my son was already used to the idea.
This system has made the hard issue of discipline much easier for us! Find more Works For Me Wednesday Tips at Rocks in my Dryer.