For about six months my son was pretty difficult at bedtime. Now, he wouldn't throw elaborate tantrums and he wouldn't cry and he wouldn't do a number of things you might picture when I use the word "difficult." No, instead we'd enjoy our storytime together, we'd kiss, we'd hug, we'd say goodnight and then ... 10, 20, 30 minutes later, he'd get up. He'd come up with really impressive reasons for getting up, of course. (My favorite is still "Mommy, I need to wash my hands because I ate toast yesterday.") BUT HE WOULD STILL GET UP.
We have a house rule that he can stay up as late as he wants as long as he's reading in bed. I don't care if his light is still on and he's immersed in a gripping tale of Berenstain Bears' drama at midnight as long as he's in his bed and (mostly) quiet, but if he gets up, his books get taken away and the lights go out. This is a clear rule. So it sucked for all those months when most nights ended in tears on his end and book taking away on my end.
One day it hit me, a behavior chart.
I think I (foolishly) ruled it out for so long because we didn't have any real behavior issues other than bedtime. UH, SO? BEDTIME IS ENOUGH. My kid has always responded better to praise and rewards than threats and punishment, so why not put the power in his hands? Here's what we did, broken down in five easy steps.
1.) Make a big deal about it. I started talking about it a couple days prior to heading to Target for the supplies. "We're going to get STICKERS. For your behavior chart! You can pick out the stickers all on your own! Whatever stickers YOU WANT!" Seriously, if you could hear me talking to him about this, you would have vowed never to be that crazy woman's friend.
2.) Add a handful of things you know they'll ace. I didn't want to set him up to fail, so I added things he (almost always) does well. He's normally great at school, he nearly always puts his shoes up at the end of the day, he is often well-behaved at his grandparents' house, etc. Adding stickers to his chart on Day One was a big motivator, I think.
3.) Buy one prize right away. I bought a small Lego set that I knew he'd like (but wouldn't get TOO distracted by) and told him when he filled one line of the chart, he could have it. (He would need to fill the entire sheet to get the big prize.) I think this helped him stay focused. He got a somewhat immediate reward and that kept him invested until he got the bigger one.
4.) Don't take away stickers until after the fact. There have been a few nights when he still got up after bedtime and instead of telling him in that moment that he lost his sticker, I waited until the morning, when he was calmer and rested. This went over so much better. No tears at all. He would promise to do better the next night and he nearly always did.
5.) Make the reward something very special. Once his first sheet was full, we made a very special family trip to the toy store. We made the night all about him and let him spend over an hour in the toy store, looking at every row, analyzing every toy. I don't think we've ever done something quite like that--let him loose in a toy store with no time constraints. It needed to be that special, I think, so the reward felt worthy of all his hard work.
(Picking out his prize. Stoked.)
(I'd include a photo of the chart here if I had remembered to take one! We just used a regular piece of paper, drew a grid and assigned about 10 tasks to the rows. Voila!)
Obviously all kids are different and I hate sharing tips or advice because, hey, I'm Kyle's mom and that's the only kid I know how to parent, but this chart worked so spectacularly for us, I want to share in the hopes it would work that well for at least one of you. We've nearly solved the bedtime issue--with just a few bad nights here and there--and that's made it SO COMPLETELY WORTH that hour of following him around the toy store (and the $40 we dropped on the toy).
Have you had any luck with behavior charts? Any steps to add to the list?