We have started using star charts in our house. I didn’t think I’d ‘go there’ so early but then I decided if I had to battle my toddler one more time just to put pants on, I’d go a little cray cray. Anybody who’s parented a toddler will be nodding along by now. It’s the simplest tasks, innit, which seem to turn into the world’s biggest dramas. My kid can turn a molehill into a mountain faster than you can say: “You’re not going anywhere without shoes on Henreeeeeeeeee”. Try explaining to this toddler that putting on a jumper doesn’t require a fit of tears!
So last week I printed out a simple star chart and added the biggest drama in our house (getting dressed) to two tasks he’s a bit hit-and-miss about (brushing teeth and eating dinner). Dr Harvey Karp says star charts work best if they include some easy wins which encourage success.
On Monday morning as Henry climbed into our bed with his oh-so-icy feet, I told him all about these ‘really cool things called star charts’. I majorly talked up the excitement of getting a star and how he could even pick its colour and add it to the chart himself! At the end of the week he would earn a special present. There was no need to tell him what the gift would be. Kid was sold – hook, line and sinker.
There was a sad moment that night when star number three was achieved and kiddo went into a full-blown victory dance and then asked for his special present. I had to explain to the saddest little dropped lip that a week is actually seven days, ie an eternity when you’ve only been around for 31 months.
As the week went on, the star chart required more enthusiastic discussion and about 100 mentions of that special present. He still hadn’t asked to see it, although I had gathered together a few cool things from Whitcoulls, some printable games and colouring sheets and ‘vouchers’ for a trip to Kiwi Yo and a new Leap Pad app.
We’re going to do star charts each week and rotate out the tasks to keep it exciting. Then, before we know it, we’ll have this super amazing kid who listens to everything we say and we’ll never have an argument ever again. One can dream!
What Harvey Karp M.D. (my new guru!) says about star charts in his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block:
- Pick three behaviours to focus on, two your child already does and one he’s not doing.
- Choose goals that are very specific ie telling him to say thank you is much clearer than saying ‘be polite’.
- Explain your plan during a calm moment.
- Get your toddler involved ie let him decorate the star chart himself and pick out his favourite stickers. Make sure he puts the star on the chart.
- Kids are proud of their charts so display it prominently for all to see.
- Redo the chart every two weeks and add new behaviours as your child does better and better with the old goals.