As a parent, it is very frustrating to see that your child is having trouble just getting along. It is hard to watch him flounder through completing tasks that a younger child should be able to accomplish on his own. Wanting to help him manage his impulses and his distractibility, I sat down to read Dr. Sear's The ADHD Book.
One of the things that really stood out to me was the use of behavior charts and rewards to encourage the development of routines. This reminded me of Flylady's routines, sans rewards. The idea is to get yourself so used to doing something that it becomes second-nature. This was just what he needed. If Alex didn't have to think about what he needed to do next, he couldn't necessarily be easily distracted from doing it. If he was distracted, he would have a list to get him back on track.
Alex has a list of things he must do everyday. The list is divided into times of the day: morning routine, morning work, afternoon work, after dinner, and before bed. For each task that he completes, he gets one point. For schoolwork, he can receive up to three points, dependent upon his attitude in completing his assignments. We have also added a "Getting Along With Others" task for each time period, for which he can earn up to three points. Alex can also earn an additional five points for special household projects, such as picking up brush in the yard or doing another particularly difficult or trying chore.
Furthermore, we have added a section called "stopping at the hand." Alex is quite argumentative. Therefore, when he starts to argue and talk back, we have the option of putting up our hand like a stop sign. If he stops right away, he earns a point. However, if we must use the hand, he does not earn "getting along with others" points during that session. Also, he can only earn six "stopping" points a day, so there's no playing the system.
What does he do with all these points? Once Alex earns 25 points on his daily chart (which can take less than a day if he's good as gold), he can color in a rewards box on his rewards chart. Every seventh or so rewards box contains a prize. A few weeks ago, he redeemed his first prize for a movie night. Other rewards include ice cream, going to the playground, pizza night, a sleepover (mid-way point) and, at the very end, a camcorder of his very own.
In this way, Alex is working towards a goal by improving his behavior. It makes him more mindful of what he needs to do, places internal and external checks on his mouthiness, and rewards him for following his routines. This is what's working for us right now.
Alex was so excited to earn his first movie night a few weeks ago, and it didn't cost us a dime. He threw some blankets and pillows on the floor, cuddled down and watched Dog Gone, while snacking on popcorn. Since then, he has also earned the opportunity to go out for ice cream. Depending on the budget, this could be fulfilled by going to McDonald's for their dollar cone, or heading over to Maggie Moo's or Pino Gelato for a more elaborate treat.
Creating goals for our children help them to mature and become more aware of their actions. This is an important part of growing up. However, for children who have challenges of various sorts, following a simple routine or chore chart can be difficult at best. By giving them an age-appropriate system of rewards and goals, we provide our kids with the tools they need to learn to manage time, responsibilities, and desires. How else will they grow into happy, functioning, thriving adults?
If you would like a copy of the behavior chart that I designed for Alex, please email me at TattieTats [at!] gmail [dot] com and I would be happy to share.