Monday, March 7, 2011

Behavior, Rewards, and Life with 3 Kids

As many of you know, I have 3 kids. Two of them are... trying, to say the least. Very least. Gillian is the baby at 9, and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome this past fall. Stubborn, argumentative, and easily frustrated. Chris is 12, and while undiagnosed, has the exact same 'symptoms' as Gillian, only far more... pronounced. Highly argumentative, hyper, stubborn, and... well... he could try the patience of a saint. Raegan is our 'normal' kid, but normal only goes as far as normal is for an almost 15-year-old freshman.
Mix all 3 together, and Nick and I spend the better part of the evening asking why chores are not done, asking/yelling at kids to stop running/screaming/fighting/threatening/being rude/etc to one another. Seriously- we could probably set a clock to how often we are up and after the kids.
Last week, I was talking with a friend about their behavior. We've tried allowances, punishments, rewards, etc. Nothing works. Then it dawned on me that when Gilly was diagnosed, her school approached her behavior differently.  IE: Her class as a whole each have sticks. The sticks start off in the GREEN slot. If the student does something wrong, or bad (usually it's more than once), they are asked to move their sticks to YELLOW. If the behavior continues, it moves to RED. There is no redeeming once it's been moved- you are on yellow or red for the rest of the day.
In Aspie's, they've found that the system used is more of a melt down trigger, than a tool to aid in correcting the behavior.  As soon as Gilly was diagnosed, they moved her to a sliding scale point system.
Each day, she starts off with 10 points on a slide ruler. Through out the day, her actions can earn or take points away. For instance, if she's not paying attention, and is fiddling in her desk instead of working on math homework, she may be asked to take a point away. But, 10 minutes later, if she's helping her neighbor do the work, because she's already done, she might be told to add 1 or even 2 points. Her point scale is 0-25, meaning she can earn up to 25, or as few as 0 in a single day. Points earned for the day are her points to keep- they won't take today's points away tomorrow.
At the end of the day, she writes down her point total. Then, at the end of the week on Friday, she can go to the break room (which is a sensory room for kids who need sensory help- aspergers, autistic, etc), and can spend her points in a shop there. One time, she saved up her points for several weeks, until she had enough to purchase a private pizza party. For that, she spent "$20" in points, and got to invite a friend to eat lunch with her, where a pizza was brought in for her, soda.
When I realized how well that system has worked for her in school, I started considering how it might work here in the house. The point of the system is to not just point out the problem areas, but to reward the children in the areas they do well at. It helps them learn to correct the more impulsive behavior that leads to the most outbursts.
After talking with Nick, and drawing up a few 'plans', I finally settled on one that I hope will work here in the house.
The long and short of it, is that the kids start the day with 5 points, and can earn up to a total of 10 at the end of the day. They can't go into negative numbers, and once their numbers are banked at the end of the day, they can't lose their banked points.
I also came up with a rewards sheet that I think worked well with things the kids ask for the most often, with some small rewards that are easily obtainable in a single week, and some larger ones that will take longer than a week to save for.
Here's the rewards list:
25 Points- A small shake
40 Points- $5.00
75 Points- A movie ticket OR $10.00
100 Points- Dinner out with a parent of your choice, at the restaurant of your choice
I considered adding other small things in, but I felt that the dollar values will cover anything not listed. But the items listed- a shake, movie, or dinner out are things that the kids look at as treats that we rarely do. The shake is a small amount, and even if the week isn't a smooth one, it's something that they can earn in a single week.
If they have a perfect week, which I don't think will happen any time soon, they come out at 70 points, so just shy of $10 or a movie ticket.
I hope that in adding in things that take longer, the kids will start to 'bank' their points for bigger rewards, which helps teach them about saving instead of spending.
I also outlined samples of behavior that will either earn them points, or have points taken away.
For instance, doing their chores will not earn them points, because it's part of their job. However, I did add in a time frame in which to complete their chores after school. Currently, I have to remind the kids, call after them, and get right on them to get them even started, and for the most part, they don't finish them before 7pm, and only then because Nick is home and gets on their cases.
I also added in things like being respectful to one another, not bossing each other around, going to bed on time on school nights, helping out without being asked, picking up after your own messes, etc.
I did stress that if someone has to ask them to do something, then it isn't the same as just doing it. I also stressed that points are awarded or removed based on behavior noticed- ie: if Gilly says Chris did this, but we can't prove it happened, we likely won't be taking points away. Exaggerating is something both Chris and Gilly do a LOT of.
Over-reacting is another. Aspie kids tend to work on perception.  Chris might brush against her as he walks past, but in her mind, he pushed her, and did it on purpose. This is something that we can't stop from happening- we can't tell her how to perceive things. But, we can help her adjust how she reacts to those perceptions.
I really hope this works. We sat the kids down and explained the entire system to the kids, answered all their questions, and explained that we hope that by giving them reminders about bad behavior, and point rewards for good behavior, that it will help shape the way they act & react in the long run, making it a much smoother household, with less fighting, and out of control behavior.
Fingers crossed, hope it works!
I did also point out that while they are free to spend their points however they wish, we would be going on vacation in June, and it might be in their best interests to save some points up towards money for souviener shopping.
I can already tell, though, that Chris will cash out for cash, Gilly will cash out for a shake as soon as possible, and Rae will -try- to save up for dinner out, but will likely break down and want the cash.


Marti said...

What a great idea. I wish I had heard of it when my oldest was in grade school. ADD and reading comprehension disorder, and was developmentally delayed. I did the stickers, charts, every reward system we could think of, and her younger sister earned all the rewards. All our older dd got was frustrated. I hope this works for you at home because it sounds like something that could really help.

Expressions by Heather said...

I am really hoping that it helps with both of the younger ones, since those two are the ones who need the help the most. Fingers crossed, we'll get some results fairly quickly.

In the past, giving them quarters for each chore worked- for a few days, until the thrill of a quarter wore off. Most of the things we do only work for a few days, then they stop trying.

Hopefully this will encourage them to keep trying.

Valery (CEO Wanna Be) said...

I loved your post. I have a 10 year old that i know has Asbergers (sp) and I have not been able to find the right doctors to diagnose him. They did say he was ADD but the meds just made him like a vegetable. I have to keep things very structure for him and explain any changes but with 7 kids in the house that can get hard. I am a new follower and hope to check back more.

Lis said...

Hi Heather, long time no chat. I'm glad you figured out what works with sweet Gilly. It does sound like it might work at home. Being that I have no family, no breaks, and am with my near 12yr old 24/7, nuthin seems to work on her lately! That big yellow bus is looking better everyday lately...I think I'll introduce this system & give it a go. She's always wanting to negotiate "deals" and "rewards"..I'm gonna try this, thanks for mentioning it! Lis