Harrison and I took a hike along the Katy Trail today. There are several trailheads near us, so we just picked one and took a hike (pun intended). It was a perfect day for it; it was just a little cool out, and we got to wear our boots since it had rained recently. I mean, take a boy out in the woods, and he’s already happy, but toss in mud and puddles, and he’s in heaven!
Just as we started, an older man passed us and decided to tell me I would probably end up holding Harrison. I said I didn’t think so, and he proceeded to tell me, “If you go down that hill, you will.”. I kindly told him I appreciated the “heads up”, and Harrison and I chose to go down the hill. Harrison did ask for me to carry him on the way back, but it had nothing to do with being tired. Someone forgot to use the bathroom before we left, and he wouldn’t go outside. (Uh, get on that, Daddy.) I told him I would hold his hand and help him make it up the hill, and that worked. Other than that, it was an exciting hike full of rocks, worms, puddles, plants, and mud!
We do this kind of thing with Harrison a lot, but this was a special trip he chose this morning. We are always talking to Harrison about how he contributes to our family, but we recently decided to help drive the concept home, if you will. We want Harrison to understand that he contributes to the family because everyone has a role in a family, but at almost 3 1/2, he still needs a little encouragement. We decided to do this in a form of a “contribution chart”. I had read about this concept in several places (here is just one).
David and I didn’t want to pay Harrison for his contributions, though. Again, the idea is that he contributes his share because that’s what you do as part of a family. Also, he already has a natural desire to “do”, as most children his age do. He wants to do work and help us out. He just needs some motivation at times. That’s where the contribution chart comes in. I printed off this free template. Here’s the image from the site.
I framed ours so we could use a wet-erase marker on it. I do love a gold sticker, but I didn’t want to print off a new chart each week. It works perfectly for Harrison. He has to make sure all of his blankets and pillows look decent on his bed; he gets himself dressed and folds and puts away his clothes/puts away dirty clothes and puts on pajamas; sets his place at the table and clears it; brushes his teeth; cleans up toys. Basically, I hit the jackpot finding this chart. The icons fit with all of Harrison’s responsibilities. Harrison gets a check mark if he completes something with minimal prompting (i.e., we don’t have to tell him 3xs and he requires little if any assistance). He still has to perform every task, but he may not get a check for it.
Here’s what we don’t do:
- We don’t tell him he does or doesn’t get a check mark.
- We don’t punish him for not getting check marks.
- We don’t praise him for getting check marks. We may let him know we appreciate that he’s contributing and doing his part, but we don’t applaud him for doing what is expected of him.
- We don’t bribe him with candy or other gifts.
Here’s what we do:
- We put the contribution chart in plain view in the kitchen area. Harrison can see for himself if he is or isn’t receiving checks.
- We thank him for being an important part of our family and let him know it means a lot to us that he does his part. For example, I may tell David, in front of Harrison, how Harrison did a nice job folding his pajamas.
- We let him choose an “experience” at the end of the week (Friday) for his contributions. David and I predetermine what will go in the “pile” based on the checkmarks, but Harrison helped us come up with many of the experiences.
We have used the contribution chart for two weeks, and it has been hugely successful so far. Not to say we have a 100% success rate (more like 80%), but we have noticed Harrison getting better at just doing and not needing reminding. Last week, he chose the train store (Barnes and Noble), and this week he chose a nature hike. And that takes us back to the beginning. The nature hike we took today was an experience Harrison chose after another week of contributions.
The other bonus is it gives Harrison some 1-on-1 time with Mommy or Daddy. Some we will do as a family (the zoo), but it’s nice to give Harrison some individual attention. We strive to devote equal time (whatever that means) to the boys, but the truth is that can be difficult at times, and we notice it can put a strain on Harrison when he’s feeling “neglected”. I know he really appreciates this time, and it helps us reconnect with him. A win-win in my book.