My kids are absolutely awesome. Except when they’re not—and then they suck. Let me state right off the bat that I am no parenting expert, but I have learned in the past 6.5 years of parenting that making expectations clear, encouraging visualization of what will happen next, and offering clear incentives are key to steering your child right and maintaining a shred of sanity in the process. But it’s essential to instill those expectations, visualizations and incentives while they’re being awesome rather than sucking. Sometimes incenting your child to change a behavior is as easy as—“hey, do this for three days and I’ll take you for an ice cream sundae.” A new pattern is set and—boom!—problem solved. But for other behavior issues, you can feel like you’re hitting up against the same obstacle over and over (and over) again. And it’s maddening. You can create chore charts and behavior notebooks till you’re blue in the face, but ultimately there will be two things missing: specific details about your child that stimulate a very personal visualization of success and specific details of the rewards involved. That’s where a Goal Setting and Rewards Photo book comes in. Here are two examples of how to create a goal setting rewards photo book for (even with!) your child.
*I used the new Arts and Crafts theme above
Issues with School Drop-Off To protect his solid first-grader rep, I won’t go into specific details about the various hideous pre-school and kindergarten drop-off histrionics that I have endured in the past, but let’s just say that it was ugly for quite a while. I finally had a (brilliant) teacher suggest that I create a book with my son that illustrated every single thing that had to happen in a morning leading up to school. We played around with various formats (my son, like me, loves making books). We sketched the steps: wake up, snuggle, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, get in the car, pick a song to rock out to, drive to school, get out of the car, grab lunch boxes, say hello to the teacher, say hello to friends, hug mom, do the latest fist-bump (currently it’s fist-knuckles-fireworks), then mom waves through the window.
The last page of the book depicted my son with my husband and me high-fiving as we share ice cream cones. See? Everyone’s happy! We drew it. We took pictures to illustrate it. We talked about it. We read the book we made over and over again. That repetition, the expectation, the reward, the consistency, the happy ending…all laid out for a child is so comforting. At first your book feels like a pipe dream, then it starts to approximate reality. And finally (success!) it’s not needed anymore.
Issues with Bedtime Nighttime is the best at my house. Until the fun runs out, and then it’s misery for all involved. Everyone knows that little babies benefit from the same nighttime routine every night—bath, book, lullaby, kiss, etc. But nobody ever talks about how to enforce a specific bedtime routine for older kids. The assumption is that you hammered the process out when they were babies, and it’s all been smooth sailing ever since. But as our kids grow, so do their interests and it’s not so easy to rein them in—it’s no longer just books and lovies they want, it’s computer time, Wii, board games, card games, craft projects, dance parties and dessert! And after our busy day, it’s understandable that as parents half the time we are excited to dive right in to the fun with them—and the other half of the time we’re just happy they’re distracted while we clean up.
But then the meltdown happens when you’ve pushed it too far. If every night presents an epic bedtime battle, create a custom Mixbook to illustrate exactly how a night is supposed to go. I’ve found that parsing out exactly what happens when—dinner at 6, dessert after if dinner was eaten, bath at 6:45, jammies and teeth brushed at 7, choice time till 7:20, in bed at 7:30, books till 7:45 then lights out—helps us as parents as much as it helps our kids. It’s far too easy to just have a vague idea that prior to lights out teeth have to be brushed,
jammies put on, toys cleaned up, etc. But if you really flesh out what exactly you expect—and when you expect it to happen—it can really clarify the process for everyone and ensure that both parents and kids are on the same page. Snap pictures of your kids during the day—staging bedtime at breakfast (trust me, your kids will think it’s high comedy)—and upload your pictures right into your Mixbook to illustrate what it means to have a good night. And, if you choose, you can add a picture of whatever incentive you offer your child after a week of great bedtimes!
Customize your goal setting rewards book to your child’s exact needs, working with him or her to make it fun and realistic. Then read it over and over again until it becomes part of their DNA. You can even use a Mixbook star sticker as a design element, then add actual star stickers to your book each time your child has a success. Happy goal setting!