Reward Charts – For whose benefit?
As a Mum to two daughters, I feel I have had more than my fair share of judgement for some of my parenting decisions. From my strict naptime routines, my extended breastfeeding, to the fact that my daughter is pretty diabolical when it comes to her food. I have been judged to the point of being angry & upset, to the point of feeling inadequate, and to the point where I almost don’t feel I can ask a question or voice an opinion for fear of the Perfect Mum Brigade telling me what I am doing wrong.
Today, however, I was judged and criticised on something that I quite frankly found to be bizarre.
I was judged for using a Reward Chart with my daughter.
So here’s the background. After an extended stay in hospital when I had my second daughter, my eldest got used to sleeping in my bed, or having Daddy close at night time. Once I returned home from hospital, this slightly turbulent time in her life had meant she had transitioned from sleeping through all night in her own bed to waking and then calling out for her Dad. She wasn’t in pain or ill, not distressed or upset, and was perfectly capable of getting herself back to sleep, however she had learnt that Daddy was a relatively soft touch. As a result, it had got to the point where my other half was lying on her bedroom floor two or three nights a week, wandering off to her room at around 1.30 in the morning.
I decided to introduce a reward chart as a potentially fun way of breaking this habit, and as we will be wanting to reuse her cot bed for Neve in a few months time, I thought this would be a great opportunity to create the incentive of getting a “big girl bed” – a cabin bed to you and me.
I created the chart with 31 days – for every night she slept in her own bed all night on her own, she could move her photo a day forward on the chart, one step closer to the reward. For every night that Daddy had to sleep on her floor however, she would take a step backwards, delaying how soon she reached her goal. At the half way point, she has a treat from Toys R Us – (she had her eyes on a Children’s Watch like Ruby at preschool apparently!)
When we explained the idea to Erin, she absolutely loved it – she sat with Daddy and started looking at pictures of cabin beds on google. She was very excited by the prospect!!
Daddy has not slept on her floor since.
She grasped the concept straight away. We still go in if she cries out, and occasionally she will ask for a quick cuddle, but she returns to her bed and stays there until morning. One night I even heard her say “no Daddy you can’t stay on my floor or I won’t get to move on my chart!”
I am amazed at how well it has worked. She has learnt that in order to be rewarded, her behaviour has to change accordingly. Isn’t that a valuable lesson in life??
So why the drama you may ask? What is there to judge about that?
Apparently I am “undermining my child’s true feelings”, which are likely to be (in this total stranger’s opinion) a result of her feeling “unloved and underappreciated since the arrival of her sister” – (can I just add, this ‘Perfect Mother’ has just the one child).
I am, even worse than that, doing the chart for my ‘own selfish benefit and not for the needs of my child’.
To use a reward chart is ‘plain and simple bribery’, and doesn’t solve the problem.
I am not very often lost for words, but really??
- At no point has my child been ignored or be made to feel second best to her sister.
- Erin ENJOYS the reward chart – the first thing she says in the morning is – I need to go do the chart!”
- The fact that Erin has not had a single night with Daddy on the floor since the chart was introduced tells me that she is not in any shape or form traumatised by the experience, if anything, she has simply broken a habit.
- Bribery – well yes maybe, but reward charts have been used in a loose sense with children since time began – House points anyone??
So in response to the lady who decides to judge my parenting…
How about you ask my three year old what she thinks of the chart? How about you watch how happy she was when she picked out her treat at Toys R Us on Saturday? The trear which she will have earned by committing to a goal for the last 16 nights!!
Oh and when your child never comes home with Star of the Week at School because you “don’t believe in reward charts” – who’s child will be suffering then??
Some people really have too much time on their hands.