Do you have a behavioral chart for your child, or are you thinking about getting one?
You know, those things you can hang on your wall—some of them come in fancy designs and with all sorts of stickers.
And when your child does the thing you want her to do, she gets a sticker, or some other reward—like a toy she’s been wanting.
Maybe you think that a chart like this will help your child learn to use the potty, do her homework, or make his bed.
Perhaps you’ve heard from fellow parents that they’ve used a chart, and it has worked.
“This thing is life changing!” they’ll announce.
So you get excited and wonder if you should use one, too.
But ask them about the chart a few months later, and I’m willing to bet the amazing results didn’t stick.
Because after educating parents for over two decades, I can tell you that behavioral charts don’t work.
Parents have the best intentions when they try reward techniques—like behavioral charts—to elicit change from their children.
If you want your child to cooperate in some way, it makes sense to think that they would respond to being “rewarded” with a certain treat, toy, or privilege.
After all, you’ve seen it “work”: Tommy will agree to clean up his room if you tell him you’ll get pizza tonight.
But unless you want to be on a very limited diet, you’re going to have to find some other way to get Tommy to do what you want.
What’s more, kids know when they’re being manipulated into doing something. And they’ll begin playing the same game.
Shannon will only watch her mouth if you stop telling her what to do all the time.
Or Neal will keep pushing for bigger and bigger rewards.
At worst, behavioral charts encourage a power struggle where your child tries to one-up you.
At best, they “work” for a limited time, and then the novelty wears off and you have to try something else.
And that “something else” won’t truly work if it doesn’t have staying power.
What you’re really looking for is a way to inspire your child to naturally WANT to do what you want, without a power struggle.
What you really want is a peaceful, harmonious household where you don’t constantly have to be pulling teeth or at your wit’s end.
You don’t want to have to negotiate, make offers, or plead.
The truth is that your kid doesn’t want that, either. And in order for the “solution” to work, it has to be acceptable to your kid, too—or he won’t do it.
So what does get your kid to cooperate for the long haul? What could possibly entice him or her to want to please you?
Most parents who come to me frustrated by a child’s defiant behavior or lack of cooperation are looking for some kind of discipline tactic that will finally work.
And they’re usually surprised—or downright offended—when I tell them what I suggest.
Because it’s often a solution they’re not thinking of at all.
Instead of charts or discipline, I explain that none of these approaches have the staying power of strengthening their connection with their child.
The connection is that special bond or attachment that only parents and their children share.
“What?” I can hear you thinking.
“Are you saying I’m not close with my child?”
I’m not saying that at all.
What I mean is that when there is a hang up over unacceptable behavior, parents naturally lose sight of the connection by focusing too much on the problem.
It becomes a vicious cycle: parent is upset that Charlie is turning in his homework late, they then hyperfocus on the issue (whether by discipline or reward) and thus turn away from activities that would strengthen the parent/child bond. Then Charlie feels neglected (and he may not even know it), and acts out, exacerbating the original problem.
When a parent calls with defiant behavior, I don’t start with the behavior. Instead, I start by taking the temperature of the bond or attachment.
If parents have gone down the road of behavioral or reward charts, I know they’ve accidentally misplaced their attention away from their bond.
My “prescription” often astounds them: I’ll tell them to forget about the unacceptable behavior. We’re not even going to go there. Instead, I tell them to take just 10 minutes a day to do some kind of play—like chasing the child around the house or baking together.
When you do this, something magical happens—your child will WANT to please you.
And that makes things easier on everyone—without having to hang something up on a wall.
Remember, the attachment between you and your child is unique, and it is always there—it often just needs to be strengthened.
In my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, I’ll teach you how to easily “wake up” the attachment between you and your child—along with giving you specific scripts you can use for even the trickiest situations that will inevitably come up as your child develops.
You’ll learn about the 6 Stages of Attachment (according to Gordon Neufeld’s model) you should have with your child and why a gap in any of these can spell unnecessarily challenging behaviors.
You’ll also learn why you must avoid being perceived as a “needy” parent. You’re needy when you’re imploring your child to take advice, or when you require him to do something a specific way. Any perceived neediness will automatically place your child in the defensive position, and she’s likely to go against your advice, even if this is not what she was planning.Watch Now And Learn How To Parent More Effectively
When the connection with your child is as strong as can be, behaviors that once challenged you will be a thing of the past.
You’ll feel in control of your child, rather than the other way around—which is exactly what she needs, even if she doesn’t act that way all the time. When parents are confident and in control—what I call the Captain of the Ship—everything is smooth sailing, for everyone!
P.S. When you have a baby, every instinct is to let the child be happy.
If he cries, you want rush to his side and comfort him. And you should. But as children get older, what they need from us is to learn how to navigate life—and that means dealing with some disappointment and discomfort.
I want to give permission to let your kids struggle and be unhappy. Letting kids be cheerful all the time is a disservice. It’s like expecting parents to be perfect, which isn’t something any of us will live up to. Let’s keep parenting real:The Truth About Not Messing Up Your Kids