Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Works for me Wednesday: A Privilege Chart

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 cons
tantly 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.

privilege chart


  1. Sounds like a great system. We have trouble keeping up with privileges too.

  2. This is the best of the 48 WFMW posts I have looked at so far. I like your idea. We have a four year old that we are struggling to discipline--this may be what we need. Thank you so much for writing it up.

  3. I like this system! With 3 kids, I'm pretty bad at remembering things, too. I'll have the older one remind me when we get home the that the middle one is supposed to get some kind of consequence when we get home from the store because otherwise I forget!

    Amber @ Classic Housewife

  4. This is great. I'm not great at being creative in parenting, so things like this really help me. Thank you for sharing.

  5. When my son went to school (we homeschool now) they had a little chart with bears. The bear moved out of a circle through three steps. This seemed to get his attention. Later I had a reward only system for my youngest son to keep him from talking back. That worked pretty good, and he started to correct himself after awhile. Each child is different! It's a challenge to figure them out! Hopefully I be able to do that before they move out! :)

  6. Ooooh - what a wonderful idea!! My daughter is only two, but she is so strong willed and already we have trouble with discipline. (Case in point, she likes to put herself in timeout.) I could see something like this working for us in the future. She is probably too young for it at the moment, but I am saving this idea for future reference! Thank you!

  7. Wow..never seen this type of "ladder" thing but it is worth a try! Sounds like a great system!
    -sandy toe

  8. Thanks so much for commenting on my blog. I LOVE this idea! I saw it on that Dilley septuplet special a long time ago and had forgotten it completely! I think I will need this in a few months and this was perfect timing to read!
    Please come back and visit me and I'll do the same for you!
    Thanks! Hillary

  9. I just found you through the comment you left at Glimpse of Sunshine. What a neat blog. I'm bookmarking and I'll be back when I have a bit more time.

    Have a fabulous day!


  10. What a great idea! Do the kids start out at the top at the beginning of each day, or does their behavior "roll-over" (like phone minutes) to the next day? :)

    You've done great design work on your blog. Welcome to this fabulous world!!

  11. Thanks, everyone, for your comments!

    Regarding Lori's question, for us the behavior does "roll-over" to the next day. When we first introduced the chart I think we started him around 7 or 8 and then he has risen and fallen (and risen and fallen a ton of times) ever since.

  12. I came over from Rocks in my Dryer. This is great, thanks for sharing! And thanks for sharing the link to the Dilley's article. I had seen their ladder on TV and wondered how it worked. I have been looking for something to use with my daughter and think this might be just the ticket!!

  13. I used a chart like that when my children were young and as they got older we just manipulated to fit the scenario

  14. Great idea. We're in the process now of implementing more rigid routines (morning, after school, & bedtime) for my 7 & 4 year olds. This ladder idea seems to be the perfect compliment! Thanks.

  15. Hi,
    I would love to implement this idea with my 3 boys. I am at my wits end. I have a few questions. First, Let's say one of kids are on a high rungs like tv time, when do you let them watch tv?
    Or if they are at level 10 every day, how many special treats do they get, one every day?
    Do they get their priveleges before bed? When do you say ok now you could watch tv or video games? That same night the next day. Any additional information would be great!

  16. Suzi,
    To answer your questions: The level rolls over (go to bed on level 4, you wake up on level 4) to the next day, so privileges are not necessarily used each day, but cannot be taken unless the child is on the right level. On a normal day my kids usually get 30 min. of TV when I am cooking dinner. If a child is not on the right level for TV at that time, then they must play somewhere else while their siblings are watching TV. For level 10, I do not do a treat each day, but rather sporadic rewards, like if I notice a child has been on 10 for 3 days I may give them a dollar store prize, other times just making it to level 10 gets a prize (especially if the child has really been struggling to be good). For video games, if my kids want to play they must make sure they are on the right level, or do chores to move up. Then they are allowed 30 minutes or so of video game time.


I'd love to hear what you think!