Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"I've been reading about Chickie's Obedience Chart," the voice on the other end of the line said, "and do you mind if I give you a little advice?"

I admit it's hard for me to take unsolicited parenting advice. I'm not sure if this is primarily because I don't like being reminded that I'm not perfect, or because I don't like being reminded that other people don't think I'm perfect. Either way, it's hard to take, especially from...

...my sister.

But as difficult as it can be to listen to advice from my twin, I know that my pride really shouldn't keep me from listening to something that might be really helpful. So with (fake) cheerfulness, I told Becki, "Sure!"

And I was really glad I did, because the advice was excellent--good enough to share with you.

Becki is a middle school teacher, and she has a quality that is extremely helpful when teaching that age group: She is very good at classroom management. She is respected by her students, and most of them even like her. So she's learned a few tricks through the years, and many of them are useful in childrearing too.

Becki explained that using the Obedience Chart for both positive and negative reinforcement (giving Chickie stars for good behavior, and erasing them for bad) probably wasn't the best idea. She gave me these two examples of what can go wrong when the same system is used for both good and bad behavior:
  • A child who has problems controlling his/her impulses may give up on even trying to do the right thing, figuring that soon enough, the reward will be taken away when he or she inevitably does something wrong.
  • A child may think, "Well, I might as well be naughty; I can always do something good to make up for it."
Becki explained that I can still use both positive and negative reinforcement; I just might want to use separate systems for them. The chart can be only for positive reinforcement, so that Chickie will eventually be rewarded for her good choices, even if they are few and far between. We can choose other ways to discipline her for bad behavior, such as time-outs, and taking away various privileges.

This seems to be working nicely and definitely feels right to me. Turns out unsolicited advice can be a great thing...even when it comes from my sister. (Thanks, Becki!)


silver star said...

Sometimes getting advice from an outside source is very helpful. Having a fresh set of eyes seeing something or having a person that can be objective can make a huge difference on something getting done in a better or worse way. What works for one person (or in my case one event) may not work for another. Sorry if that came out as more unsolicited advice.

Katie said...

that sounds like great advice! I'm like you - I have a hard time taking advice from people. But sometimes it's worth it!

Eternal Lizdom said...

I completely agree with her.

While Teagan was initially very motivated by our sticker chart (ours was set up so that she could earn 5 stickers in a day for meeting specific milestones- good bedtime the night before, getting dressed without arguing, getting out the door easily, good report from daycare, eating a good dinner). If she earned 5 stickers, she had a choice of watching a TV show OR playing the Wii for 20 minutes. If she got 4 stickers, she got an extra book at bedtime- but no TV or Wii. 3 or less, nothing extra. So there wasn't punishment, per se.

She's totally lost interest. But it has modified her behavior enough that it served its purpose and we can go back to it anytime we need it!

I think I've mentioned it before... but I adore the book "The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need" by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. I'm going to be digging into the book more on my blog soon... and will even have a giveaway coming up!

Call Me Cate said...

Depending on how it's presented and what kind of mood I'm in on any given day, I try to listen to input from the outside just for a fresh perspective. In this case, sounds like Becki had some excellent feedback for you.

I say you get a star for listening and Becki gets a star for participating!

beckiwithani said...

Your fake cheerfulness didn't fool me - I knew it was hard for you to hear! You and I are a LOT alike in that way, and I hesitated to call you. But I felt strongly about it, mostly because I had seen (on Twitter) that you and Chickie were really struggling with the star system as it was, and I thought that it could work for you if you did it differently.

Also, though, I know you very well - and I knew that you'd probably have an initial reaction of defensiveness, but you'd have the maturity to really consider the advice after hearing it. Again, you and I are very much alike in this area!

beckiwithani said...

P.S. Thanks for opening up on this, and in such a public forum. It means a lot to know that the advice helped both you and Chickie.

Becky said...

Very interesting! I really hadn't though about that, but it makes a lot of sense.

Dani said...

I love this! I had heard about not using the same system before- but this was explained in a wonderful and understandable way! This way the rewards are just rewards and they are things earned that can't be taken away and I think this must create more confidence and self-esteem in doing the right things. Thanks so much for sharing this! :)

Dani said...

By the way, I also can relate about the advice thing- but it effects me more with the giving advice part because I know some people just don't want the unsolicited advice! So I'm always so hesitant in giving it, but know if I just did it may help. ...It's hard. :)

Unknown said...

I think becki gave you great advice. Maybe that's why she seems to be doing such a good job raising ani.

beckiwithani said...

Hahaha! Anyone who is confused by why Sam (our dad)'s post is funny needs to see the comments on Dan Felstead's guest post.

Anonymous said...

I thought your system sounded great, but now that you share Becki's take on it, she really does make sense. Good for you for being open to her advice. I've always known you are a wise young lady. :)

C. Beth said...

I love, love, love that so many of you comment on these posts. And yet I've dropped the ball on responding personally to your comments the last couple of days! I'm sorry about that! I'm not going to try to get caught up but I'm making sure I get my responses in today.

silver star--I totally agree with you (and that didn't come off as unsolicited advice!) :)

Katie--I hope as I get older I'll be more secure in myself so that I'm better at taking advice!

Liz--I need to check out that book!! I'm so glad the chart worked for you--that the results were long-term even though you only used it for a short time. I'm hoping that she's getting into more of a habit of being helpful and obedient.

Cate--Yay, a star for ME? Thanks! :)

Becki--I appreciate it so much! Thank you! I talked to The Engineer about it and he thought the advice made a lot of sense too. We immediately made the change. (And thanks for including the link to the previous beckiwithani post.)

Becky--Yeah, that's how I felt--I hadn't thought of it in that way, but it just seemed to make sense.

Dani--You're welcome! I agree, it's hard to know when to give advice and when not to. Sometimes I'm the one giving unwanted advice, so I have to watch that!

Dad--Ha! You know I thought this was funny!

Sandra--Well, thank you! I hope as I get older I'll be better at WANTING to hear advice more of the time--not just listening because I know it's the right thing to do!

Scriptor Senex said...

I know the feeling about (in my case) brotherly advice.I think that no matter how much we love our siblings and no matter how much they may be our friend there is always an element of rivalry which makes us want to be as good / wise as them. Perhaps we need a chart for ourselves on this one!