Cleaning House: Kids' Behavior Tracker

I've been trying to focus a lot lately on cleaning house, both literally, and metaphorically.  You see, for the last 8.5 months, we've been suffering from  blessed with what I'm lovingly referring to as "Third Baby Syndrome." In our case, Third Baby Syndrome (TBS) has been augmented by Colicky Baby Syndrome, or CBS, Refluxing Baby Syndrome (RBS) and my personal favorite, Up Every Hour Baby Syndrome, UEHBS, or "give me caffeine," for short. All of these acronyms boil down to us having been functioning solely in survival mode for the better part of a year. Which means that our house has taken a backseat, falling into a bit of disarray, which is not something we're accustomed to here.

I'm firmly in the Type A camp, where a clean house, well-behaved kids, and well-defined boundaries are a part of the territory. In fact, if you must know, vacuum lines in the carpet make my heart sing, and heaven knows we haven't seen enough of those lately. But perhaps the biggest change in our lives since Harper has joined our family has been in the dynamic of family rules, expectations, and discipline. Or in the complete lack thereof. In the fray of bedtime nursing sessions, bleary eyed mornings, frantic taxi driving, and the general chaos that ensues when a house is full of more children than able bodied adults, we've been sort of shooting from the hip when it comes to enforcing rules, defining consequences, and rewarding good behavior. And if you've got children, you can probably already see the vicious cycle we've been creating here, with respect to our older children. Chaos breeds inconsistency, which breeds disobedience and confusion, which leads to more chaos, and the circle continues, ad nauseum.

So, in an effort to emerge from the chaos into a new, sustainable family dynamic, I've been looking at ways to organize, simplify, and clean up our house, and in turn, our lives.  After a few too many late afternoon screaming sessions, it was clear that the first place to start was with a clear system of rewards and reminders for our kids to live by. Something that was simple for them to follow, and simple for us to maintain, and most importantly, a system which reduced the amount of yelling, arguing, pleading, negotiating, and general frustration between parent and child. I've been researching chore systems, allowance and money systems, and general behavioral systems. My ultimate goal is to come up with a comprehensive, yet simple, system for managing our expectations for our children, as well as celebrating their accomplishments. I'm a firm believer that while consequences are necessary, positive reinforcement is the best way to raise your child. After all, we're not simply trying to train them, but to support them, nurture them, and encourage them to become independent people who can be proud of their contributions to society.

To that end, I came up with Phase One of my parenting system, which is this Behavior Tracker. Landon's school uses a similar system, a clip chart to monitor each student's behavioral progression throughout the day. I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical that a simple clothespin could motivate 24 elementary school students, but I've been so impressed with its success. Each day Landon finishes the day on the Amazing level, he comes home so excited to tell me. The look of pride on his face is clear evidence that the system is working, and it does a Mother's heart good to see that in her child's face. It's pretty remarkable too, especially when you consider the only "prize" for receiving the highest clip level is the bragging rights associated with it. I reworked the language of this clip chart to more accurately reflect a home environment, and to highlight the goals for behavior here at home. I did choose to keep the neutral level, or starting point for the day, as "Ready to Learn," because something I try to teach my kids is that we all have something to learn each and every day. Even the grown ups. When we stop learning, we stop living. I was very purposeful in choosing the wording for the other levels as well.  You will notice that the second negative clip level is "5 Minute Reflection," and not simply, "Time Out." Because in our house, at least, all too often Time Outs are simply a time for stomping, screaming, or even toy playing, counting down the minutes until it's over. A reflection however, indicates what this time should really be used for instead, reflecting on negative behavior and ways to improve our choices.

I'm deeming this project Phase One, because I haven't yet decided how I will incorporate this system into our overall parenting system, which will include allowance and chore systems, and because I also haven't yet decided how I want to reward the kids for consistently reaching Amazing status. A prize every day becomes too redundant, but bragging rights at home only go so far. I also want to include a way to recognize, and remember specific acts which helped them to meet their goals. I've pinned several systems, and will probably combine a few elements from each to come up with a plan that fits our family. I'll try to keep the blog updated on our progress.

Once I decided to make a chart, I started perusing Pinterest for ideas on how to make it. (Can we take a moment to truly admire our parents for all the great ideas that they came up with without the help of Pinterest? Seriously, I can't imagine parenting, or crafting, or cooking without it!) All of the charts I saw, however, were too "elementary school" looking for my tastes. You see, I knew immediately I wanted the tracker to be out in the open, in our main living area, where the kids can always see it, and access it, and I've spent a lot of time thoughtfully designing the decor in the house. While I wanted it to continue to be kid friendly, I also didn't want this tracker to completely destroy my decorating mojo. Also, as crazy as it may be, I function better when I'm surrounded by things I find beautiful, clean, and interesting. So I knew if the style weren't up to par, this chart would never last long enough in my living room to be utilized.

So, I've been patiently filing this idea in the back of my head, waiting to be inspired for a design. And one afternoon last week, walking through Hobby Lobby, inspiration struck when I walked past this beauty:
As soon as I saw it, I knew it was perfect for the project, and for my house. It's vaguely beachy, with pops of mint & aqua, and straight clean lines that perfectly lend themselves to columns on a chart. At 50% off, it was a match made in crafting heaven. In the cart, and home she came, along with a bunch of other unplanned, but totally necessary purchases.

At home, I used my trusty Silhouette Cameo machine to cut out vinyl lettering for each level of behavior. I've included a free cut-file of the levels at the end of this post, in case you'd like to make one yourself. Yes, I know, it's Cricut transfer paper I'm using for my Silhouette projects. What can I say? I'm a traitor.

{Vinyl Tip} I use a little craft stick (popsicle stick) to rub the outline of each letter of my vinyl onto the transfer paper, and again from the transfer paper to the surface I'm sticking it to. This is especially important with thin, skinny items like this font. It helps it to adhere better, and saves you from having a sore pointer finger after all of that rubbing. Also, it works better!

I measured each phrase to find the center, and then matched it to the center of each space on the tray. This is fantastically more detailed than I usually am when crafting. I'm pretty much an eyeballer when it comes to any sort of measuring project, but since Jon was manning the baby, and I wasn't in any hurry, I figured I'd actually take the extra step.

Once all of the vinyl was adhered, I needed a way to mark each child's progress for the day. I mulled over several ways to attach their names, and decided on mini-clothespins which I simply hot-glued to the tray. I'm not convinced at the longevity of hot glued clothespins under tiny hands, but it's the best I've got for now. I'll have to let you know how it holds up, as well as what other method I use if/when they fail. I'm also open for suggestions, if you have some!

Overall, I'm pleased with the finished result. The only thing left to do is to make each child a name tag, which I think I'm going to do by simply printing their names on some card stock, and laminating them. The kids are actually super excited to use this, so I can't wait to get it hung, and see how it helps us all to fulfill our roles in the family. 

Click Here for link to Free Cut File for Titles. {Personal Use Only, Please}