A New Discipline Tool That Is Working In Our House


I’ve toggled with discipline. And we’ve written about it – here and here. And it’s a universal topic in any toddler householder. And once that toddler turns three and straddles the sweet world of babyhood with the sudden high expectations we have of growing children, that issue starts to dominate date night debriefs.

We’ve been in the respectful parenting camp for a long while until the language started to feel a bit redundant, and well ineffective. So we started dabbling with the traditional tools, namely consequences taking toys away, time ‘ins’ – i.e., removing our little one from a situation and quietly sitting and reviewing what happened.

Nothing stuck until my husband suggested going back to what felt good to us the positive. That Sunday, we drafted our first Rewards Chart. It’s not fancy, but it has neat squares and a clear goal. Get a sticker for each day, and after 4 days he earns a prize. We started simple with one objective and a few days so the prize was in clear view. The rules to get a sticker sit next door the chart and Bodie helped us write it to increase buy-in. Every morning, we talk excitedly about the potential of adding another sticker to the collection, and we review the rules together.

Bodie’s memorized them so he “reads them out loud,” picks out which sticker he’s going to choose at the end of the day and we’ll check in a couple times a day to remind him of the end goal. Yes, this is also called bribing.

But aren’t we all incentivized to operate in the world by goals and consequences? And in the world of a three-year-old, when deep value based dialog feels a bit out of reach, sometimes it’s just as simple as clarifying the limits and rewarding the learning.

The obvious question is how long does this go on for, and our current thought is, this is a lifetime of learning and while the rules or goals may get more layered and the days to the reward a bit greater, for now, the idea of a positive outcome for learning the right way to handle tricky situations (which is a big job for a little guy!) feels right.

We’re on week 2 of this, and it’s a) our longest lasting approach and b) had the best, most consistent, and joyful success.

What’s worked for you if you’re navigating challenging behavior with your kids?

P.S. Coincidentally though I’d written this post previously, I went to a talk by the Seedlings Group on positive discipline and found Aliza Pressman to be a wealth of sound research and information on praising good behavior and rewards specifically.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash