Monday, September 19, 2011

The right tool is everything (or, it's about flipfloppin' time something worked!)

The right tool is everything. If you've ever done any kind of handyman project with a limited toolbox, and then watched any show at all on HGTV and see them do it in a fraction of a minute with some handy tool, you know of which I speak! I want to share with my friends today a wonderful tool, if you have children, that has really made things start to tick in the Cockrell house!

Ever since God has blended together my wonderful family, Josh and I have been searching for the right way to have consistent discipline, have everyone get their chores done, minimize me having to micromanage every moment of the day, and just generally grow some responsible kids. We wanted family meetings, we wanted rewards and consequences, we wanted kids to take responsibility for their part in the family. We've implemented and tried several different things. Big, massive chore charts with stickers and such, little pockets with cards, threats of a sound beating (this was mostly Josh's tactic), amongst several others. Nothing has worked to bring everything we are trying to accomplish together on a consistent basis. Then, this summer I went to the homeschool expo in Altanta and I found the most fabulous tool. After talking to the people behind the table I knew I had to have this system. Unfortunately I couldn't afford it AND curriculum at the same time, so I had to pass it up until this last month when I found a bit of extra money and a great deal on the system at my homeschool buyers Co-op. (it isn't that the system is really that expensive, it's just when you have four kids it is everything times 4 always!). Please let me introduce you to ACCOUNTABLE KIDS. Here's some pictures of my set up.

 Jackson posing with the Accountable kids boards. He likes it! The routine is great for his little ADHD mind.
 This is my whole set up. the kids boards, the family meeting board (not strictly needed, but I went all out), my little peg board for extra cards, tickets and bonus bucks. My calendar for family meetings and sheets that remind the kids what makes them get and lose tickets and a sheet for writing down anything you'd like to discuss at the family meetings (for instance, Abby, whose job is cleaning the kids bathroom, wanted to discuss how everyone spits on the mirror instead of in the sink and could people please please PLEASE try not to spit on the mirror so she doesn't have to clean it EVERY day - can you hear her eight year old voice.....heehee, quite dramatic).
 close up of the Accountable Kids board. First peg is for core chore cards. see how there are different colors and levels for morning, night and afternoon chores? Second peg is where they turn over the chore cards when the task is finished. Third peg is where they keep earned tickets. Fourth peg is where they collect stars (one day with three tickets earned gets a star). When they have filled up all ten spaces on the card they have earned a "date" with mom or dad (we alternate). This ensures each kid gets some alone time with each parent. Abby and Dad had their first date yesterday, and it was wonderful. What we didn't realize before then is that Abby is the only child who has NEVER been out alone with Dad! Without this program would she ever have got that alone time with him? The last peg is for purple and green chores. You can do lots of different things with these. What we ultimately decided to do was to used them to denote (green) an extra chore of the week that isn't a daily chore but which still needs doing but which you do NOT get paid for) and (purple) an extra chore that you DO get paid for. The chore is clearly marked and is assigned. If they chose to do it, they will get bonus bucks to denote how much they have earned and will be paid at the family meeting once a week. If they decide that chore is too hard and they don't want to do it, it will go to the first to volunteer for it (there is a sheet where you can list job opportunities, or you can just lift it up and say "this kid has declined this job, who wants it for two bonus bucks!". This has only happened once so far for us, but Sammy turned down a job in the garage he thought would be dirty and hard, and sister Elizabeth, for whom cash is king right now, stepped in an took the job and earned the money.
 This is the digital clock (everyone can tell time on it). The kids know that morning chores have to be done by 7:45 so we can leave for school, afternoon chores have to be done by 7, and evening chores by 8:30.) You sometimes have to make exceptions because of your schedule (like for instance, on wednesdays we don't get home from church until 8:30 or later, so obviously they need an extension there).
Family calendar of course, with the schedule for the upcoming weeks. We are supposed to talk about this on family meeting night and make sure everybody knows what is going on with everybody.

Ok. Don't run away screaming. I know it looks overwhelming, but in reality, this is my new tool of peace! This system can be used from about age 4 to 15 in my opinion.  All my kids picked up on everything very quickly. I have a 8,9,10, and 14 year old, and I think any one of them could have used the basic system as early as 3 or 4.  Now, here is the amazing thing about this! This brings together ALL the things I've ever wanted to bring together to run the family into one easy to use and integrate system. The basic idea is that you have core chores. These are chores that the children do just because they are privileged and grateful to be part of the family. This is their daily chores like making the bed, taking their vitamins, getting dressed, going to school, etc.  Then you have your weekly chores, paid or unpaid. This allows the children to actually realize that some things you do because you have to do them, and some things you can chose to do to get a paycheck.  The children get up in the morning and the first thing they do is go to their board (nicely and neatly laser engraved for an extra 9.99, although they encourage decorating the boards individually with the kids, but since my boards are prominently hung in my living room I couldn't bring myself to let the kids have their way with the boards) and start going through the cards. Right now I have it very detailed (have breakfast, clear your dishes, get dressed to shoes, brush hair, brush teeth, pack snack, make bed). They don't even have to think about what they need to do, you don't have to nag them, and you don't have to be frantically yelling for this kid to do that and this kid to do this because you have to leave on time. If you see them getting off task all you have to do is point to the boards and they go "oh yah" and right away they are back on track. The cards can be cut to different lengths and colors to denote morning, afternoon, and evening chores. So when the kids are done the yellow chores, they are done for the morning and they get a ticket. They get a ticket for each group of chores, and can earn three tickets a day. the tickets are redeemable for 30 minutes of computer, tv, Nintendo, or telephone (for the older girl). This automatically limits the amount of time they can spend in front of their brain rotting media. All the kids are watching less tv, playing less video games, and doing more stuff good for their mind (puzzles, reading, actually using their imagination, drawing). None of those activities require tickets. All they require is that the core chores are done. The system actually comes with a book. Yes, a full book. It is jam packed with useful information on how to use the system and how to get the best out of it for YOUR family.

Okay, so let's recap. These are the goals that we've been wanting to meet and never been able to in the past that accountable kids has already taken care of or has us on the path to being taken care of.

1.Kids responsible for their own chores
2.Kids know exactly what is expected of them, and when
3.Make kids feel an important and needed part of the family
4.Make discipline straight forward and easy (backtalk, you lose a ticket, lying, you lose  3 tickets (yes, I am really big on honesty, turning over a card you didn't do, 1 tickets). There is no more fighting or arguing or that's not fair. It's just "please give me a ticket, and you know why you lost it right?"
5.Limit media time responsibly and easily.
6.Let kids earn allowance, and connect hard work with reward
7.Let kids chose how much money they want to make (they want more money, request more chores - we do put a limit of how much they can earn per week)
8.Teach Kids the value of saving and giving (we require that the children save one dollar and give one dollar for every 5 dollars they earn). We keep it all in our accountable kids binder I made up and they can see their savings grow on the chart each week. The rest of the money they can choose what to do with. Sammy and Abby chose to save most of it and usually just keep a dollar out. Elizabeth always so far puts the minimum in savings and chooses to keep the money to spend. Jackson I think likes to see that money in his piggy bank. I've made it clear that they have power to chose and I've talked to them about the power of compound interest. If I can get it through their heads to save often and save early they won't ever be in my situation of struggling to make ends meet at 40 years old.
9. Implementing a family meeting. We were going to do this when we first got married, but we never seemed to be able to find the time and had no format to go by. This is a GREAT forum for kids to be able to feel heard. Monday night at 8. family meeting. Every week. No excuses. The first one was pretty long as we explained the whole system to the kids. the next two were shorter, 15-20 minutes.  It's a great weekly "check in" time and to get everybody on the same page. We usually start with a little ice breaker (if you were an animal which one would you be and why?) and then discuss any issues, give out allowance, collect tithe and savings and close with a prayer.
10. a way to fix problem behaviours. I haven't used this part yet in the three weeks we've been using the system. there is another card called a priveledge pass, best used to correcting specific behaviours (table manners, stay in bed, etc). We haven't needed this yet, but with the amount Jackson gets out of bed after he's tucked in lately, I think we may need to pull it out and see how it works.
11. a way to immediately reward positive behaviour you want to see. There are cards called best behaviour cards. These are intermittently rewarded for exceptional kindness, exceptional generosity, exceptional behaviour of any kind that you want to see more often. It isn't give EVERY time and is at the parent's sole discretion (for instance, if one of our kids points out something wonderful they did to us they are automatically not going to get a card - we use it to reward exceptional behaviour we feel springs from the heart). They can immediately turn in one of these cards for a gift from a bucket we keep stocked with dollar store toys and treats and chocolate bars and the like. ( I have a separate bucket or elizabeth with pencils, journals, appropriate makeup, vampire stickers, and things a teenager would like ) One thing that has surprised me is that sometimes the kids will nominate each other for a reward. For instance, one will say "wow, Sammy just did this for me and it was so nice! I think he deserves a bucket treat!" That has warmed my little mommy heart.

I know I've gone on and on, but this system truly incorporates easily and effortlessly all the things I have wanted to incorporate into our family life for the last two and a half years almost and I have been so truly impressed by how well thought out and complete this is. Of course, we have been using the program only three weeks, and it took me about 4 days to put it up, read the book, and feel comfortable explaining it to the kids (they actually recommend, depending on the age of the kids, to introduce one concept per week - I just kind of dumped it all on mine at once and they coped fine, but if they were younger you might want to do the core chore concept and then add bonus bucks or whatever later), but I already see changes in the house. I am much less stressed out and yell less at the kids, they appreciate knowing what to do next and being able to earn money.  Some chores have been getting done that never hardly ever got done before (like dusting! once a week the house is being dusted. unheard of!!!) The filthy dirty sliding glass door that the dogs jump up with their muddy paws on can be seen through again, they are learning what kind of behaviors in life bring reward and which ones make their life boring and no fun, and the kids are banking some cash! You can't beat it!

So far you want to know what has been my favorite part of whole thing though? They have a card labeled "prayer" in the multitude of cards they give you. I added it to the last thing on the morning chores for each child. I thought, in the rush of the morning, who doesn't need to just take a moment and invite Jesus into your day.  I've been surprised at the response. I assumed the kids would just stand where they were and close their eyes for a second, but no! Sammy generally throws himself onto the couch with his hands folded and Abby runs back to her (made!) bed and kneels to pray. Any system that can remind my kids (and me!) to slow down and invite the Lord to share our day, is a system for me!

Hey moms, if you have any questions ASK me here, and I'll happily respond. I think I am this programs new best friend. Just like I think I sold 50 kindles when I first got mine, I think I'll be selling this by my enthusiasm. That reminds me. On labor day we visited Kaliska, Josh's sister, and I guess Abby so "talked up" this system that after we left, her little girl Rachel made up a to do list and cards and demanded that Kaliska go get a treat bucket! So I'm not the only one selling the system with my enthusiasm, so is my eight year old! My family gives this a 5/5!

get it now! you'll love it! I wish I would have thought of it myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment