In Which My Life Is Forever Changed

You can imagine my delight when I walked through the kitchen earlier tonight and caught a glimpse of the playroom.


And as you can tell, the little man, who was hanging out with his daddy in the den, was terribly bothered by the mess.


But guess what?

Earlier this week his teacher sent home a chart that says “The Happy Way Is To Obey,” and it has four categories on it: goes to bed, comes when called, recites memory verses and picks up toys. And then out to the side of each category there are little boxes where you can put a sticker or make a check mark when that task is accomplished. Once the entire chart is filled in, Alex is supposed to take the chart back to school so that he can claim a special prize from the treasure box.

I didn’t think too much of the whole chart thing, honestly, because some form of gold star system has always motivated me about as much as a potential trip to an amusement part would motivate a fish.

Which is to say: not at all.

But the boy? On the other hand? ALL OVER IT.

We discovered his love for the chart the other day after he said his memory verses and started screaming “I GET A CHECK NOW! I GET A CHECK NOW! MAMA, PUT A CHECK ON THE PAPER FOR ME!”

And so, as I silently wondered HOW IN THE WORLD I HAD A CHILD WHO RESPONDS TO POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT, I put an orange check on Alex’s little obedience chart and watched his face light up like a fancy pre-lit Christmas tree.

You would’ve thought that I’d given him a bucket of fried chicken or something.

Anyway, tonight after I saw the playroom I decided that I’d see if I could put the chart to work again, so I said, “Hey, buddy – could you please pick up your toys? I can give you a check on your chart if you work quickly.”

And then I witnessed two incredible events:

1) Alex hopped up off of the couch and ran to the playroom.

2) Within ten minutes, the playroom looked like this:


People! It’s magic!

And now I’m more convinced than ever that I need to add some additional categories.

I’m open to suggestions, but I’m pretty sure that “brings Mama a diet Coke at least twice a day” and “naps for at least two hours each afternoon” are going to the top of the list.

A child needs goals, y’all.

Oh yes.

A child needs goals.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • email


  1. Awesome! Way to go, Alex! Oh, how I wish that the whole chart thing was that motivating to my own children. Hope that the napping and Diet Coke things work out well!! ;)

  2. As one who thrives on lists and charts of my own, you better believe I’m looking forward to the days when charts will have significance in this house…

  3. I like: gives mama a compliment about how beautiful she is. ;)

  4. He’s just adorable.
    Have you thought of having another baby, to add even more beauty to the world?:-)

  5. The privledge of giving me and hour long hot stone massage is motivation for my kids to clean their rooms, vacuum, sweep, etc.

    The sacrifices I make…

  6. Wow, I am totally impressed. He did an awesome job!!

    Enjoy those diet cokes.

  7. Sadly, I think picking up that playroom should have warranted more than one check. Why don’t you give the boy – ummmm – maybe one more?

    I just L-O-V-E treasure boxes…

  8. Charts, now that’s an idea I haven’t tried in a while…I am up in the middle of the night wondering HOW do I get on a schedule…I mean honestly lost with the HOW of it all…what did I do with my toddler those 15 years ago when I can’t manage to keep my toddler now occupied for more than 5 min at a shot…just some ramblings of another mom who is amazed that your chart deal was so successful :) Hope it keeps working for you and your adorable boy! Glad other stuff is better too.

  9. And when the charts run out of power (and they will one day!)…I used to hang a rubbish bag on the door handle and say casually….. anything left out when you go to bed will be thrown away, because I will assume you no longer need it. After one episode of disappearing toys it never happened again. The toys were tossed up in the loft, by the way!

  10. I’m so glad you discovered the wonders of the “chart”. The “chart” stopped my 4 yr old from sucking her thumb, my almost 3 yr old to potty train. It’s cleaned countless rooms, swept countless floors, and cleaned miles of baseboards. You see the “chart” is our friend as long as there are prizes attached to the chart. It’s not the chart that’s the winner, it’s the antcipation of the Prize! And don’t we all like PRIZES! I know I do! I wish I got a trip to the treasure box everytime I cleaned a toliet. I might actually enjoy it.

    BTW, he is soooooo cute!

    Georgia Mom

  11. Charts work their magic around here, too, at times. I’m thinking he might need to get check marks for telling the mama she’s having a good hair day.

  12. Oh the power of a sticker chart! I highly reccommend some cute stickers from the $ store and a chart for every fridge!!!
    Love your blog!

  13. How ’bout throwing in a foot rub for good measure?

    Yeah, we could have fun with this list.

  14. I was going to mention the Foot rub but katiebod beat me to it. :-)

    Thanks for coming by to visit my blog the other day.

  15. My kindergartener did the SAME chart last week! Yes, it is a magical as if Tinkerbell herself were sprinkling fairy dust.

  16. My kids have graduated from an M&M, to cold hard cash. I heart bribing, er, hem, positive reinforement. I really do. Because I am way too obessive compulsive and MUST have things where.they.GO.

  17. Seriously, you could add “Brushes teeth.” That has always been a bear at our house.

    Then throw in-“Gives mama good material for blog” and “Cheers for the Bulldogs while standing in front of the TV with mama.” :>)

  18. “You would’ve thought that I’d given him a bucket of fried chicken or something.”

    HA!!! You are just so funny.

  19. Oh, yeah. Good times! Savor these moments.

  20. Great Job Alex! When the charts lose their appeal I have another idea for you. I used to use the little plastic poker chips as reward tokens. (Three kids, so each got their own color) Something about having a jar of these was always a good visual to my children. We then made a chart of rewards that they could spend their tokens on. Anything from a trip to MacDonalds to a trip to a movie or having a friend over to play or they could even buy hugs and kisses from mom or dad if that is what they wanted. Of course that took minimal tokens! (but they would use them for that if that is the mood they were in) Anytime I caught them doing something nice the reward of a token was always a delight to them. They would save and save and aim to please if they wanted to use them for a “biggie” on the chart. This kept me on my toes to notice their good stuff and made them feel special that I did. It taught them a lot about “saving” and working toward a goal too. Maybe someone else who reads this can benefit from a new form of positive renforcement as well. When he’s old enough I’ll share my “jerk a job” jar with ya! LOL …. that one was a hit with my kids and the neighbor kids!!!

  21. Come check out the winners at my blog this week.

  22. LOL! My kids never responded to the star charts…so glad yours does:) Enjoy it while it lasts:)

  23. I’m getting out the posterboard and markers RIGHT NOW and making some sort of chart.

    And by getting out those kind of crafty supplies, I mean running to Michaels. Because I don’t keep crafts on hand.

  24. Now this probably isn’t a problem at your house…for I think it’s genetic! But how about “doesn’t throw fits of temper.”

    Then again, I think I might need a chart for me, too! My treasure chest could be my new found Williams-Sonoma store (which is only 8 minutes away from our home!!). I just read Amanda and your comments about it last week. Then Patty was having a give-away. And I thought, Hmmm, I have never heard of it–only to mapquest it and find it in an area I often go!

  25. First of all, that picture of Howard up there? Is outstanding. Twenty years down the road, it’s going to make you cry, if it doesn’t already.

    I think adding folding laundry to the list is in order. I’m sure he’s a quick learner. See it. Do it. Do it again.

  26. The chart is magic at our house too. The only problem is me keeping up with those things…

    Our chart has brushing teeth, helping mom make the bed, picking up toys and no fits. The second I remind Landrie about the no fits check…it usually stops the fit immediately.

  27. Along the same lines, I heard a teacher tell my kid that patience is “happy while you wait.” I’ve used that countless times!

  28. SIGH….wishing that chart thing still worked with my teens!!! ;) Howard is adorable!

  29. A little jar to which fancy glass stones (the ones that look like flattened marbles) are added for good behavior is oddly motivating to my kid. She can also lose stones for not-so-good behavior. When the jar is full, she gets a special treat.

  30. too bad for child labor laws — that terrific cleaning job could make him a lot of money for his college education.

    I’d hire him!


  31. Hm. Tried the whole sticker chart thing. Didn’t work. His teacher must play it up at school, or something. Congratulations anyway!

  32. That’s one great teacher, helping mom out! I’m sure an additional motivator is is that he’ll get the recognition at school in front of everyone.

  33. I say work that chart for all it’s worth for as long as it works! How great that you have discovered what really motivates him–I guess his love language is Words of Affirmation!

  34. Oooooh, my sons LOVE sticker charts here. I would give them a mini-sticker (star, happy face, dot or whatever) when they do something that is listed. There is a ‘bonus’ category which is really hard to get, but we wanted a way to acknowledge truly extraordinary efforts. If they get all 6 stickers in a day they get…. a bigger sticker at the bottom. lol.

  35. My son’s 1st grade teacher has been taking full advantage of the power of the Treasure Box. Instead of charts, they have clips. From my son’s description, these are clips like the one’s that come on bags of bagels or tortillas. They each have a ring of some sort and they earn clips to hook on their ring for good behavior/test scores/etc. Weekly they go to The Box to buy things, periodically the price of everything increases by one clip to keep them working hard. The first thing he shares with me each afternoon is how many clips he has earned for the day. He made me smile the other day when he came home and shared with excitement and bright eyes, “Mama, today I was so good that I got clips AND M&Ms!!” That’s my boy, clips are good and fine, but chocolate, now chocolate would motivate anybody. :)

  36. I must say that picture of Alex is so precious!! He smiles with his eyes!

    Sweet, sweet, sweet!!

  37. We have the whole chart thing going on our fridge. My 3 year old son is highly motivated by the stickers on the chart. My older children are asking what a week’s worth of stickers get them (answer: an exciting week’s worth of stickers, children!), but my 3 year old just loves those stickers. Right now, one category is “sleeps in your own bed all night long.” This way, we can avoid the climbing-into-parents’-bed-and-smacking-mama-in-your-sleep routine we were doing. If he comes into our room in the middle of the night, I whisper, “Go back to your own bed, sweetie, so you can get a sticker.” MAGIC! I love charts.

  38. I think I’ll make one for my husband – my kids do just fine :)

  39. Your boy is such a cutie patootie!!!

    Charts didn’t do a thing for my kiddos…..not a blessed thing!

  40. I’m seeing the same thing in these parts. It’s a disease…this “treasure box syndrome”.

  41. It’s awesome that the positive praise comes from both you AND the teacher. Wish my preschool teacher would send home a chart like that.

  42. He is so cute, I could just eat him up!

  43. That’s awesome! I tried that when my kids were little but it never worked for me. I’m glad you had good luck!! Congrats!!

  44. Kelly in Carrollton, GA says:

    Hey! I’ve been loving your blog forever, but this is my first post to you…..and I had to speak, because that Alex is the CUTEST!! What a precious smile. I’ll bet he looks just like you!!

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us here. I am a HUGE fan of everything southern, and if I could pick any city to live in it would be B’ham. The phenom of blogging success is how the Lord links our hearts with yours….. You are dearly loved and appreciated!!

    Blessings, Kelly

  45. Do you think the chart will work with husbands? LOL!!!!

  46. What a cute boy!

    And I’m with Tee above! How about a chart for husbands!?!!

    I just made a post about our chore chart a couple of weeks ago – mine are a little older than yours it appears, but you might get some ideas! You can see the whole thing here: He really is a cutie! Thanks for sharing your story!

    Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife

  47. Cute. Kudos and blessings. Thanks for sharing your chore goals.

  48. Bringing mom a diet coke should definately be on the list, I don’t understand why they are not made that way to begin with.

    When my husband brought home a bunch of chicken from the one and only Popeyes in the state of Minnesota recently, I though of Boomama. Really. I did. And it was good chicken.

  49. Way to GO!!…Alex! What a great motivator…where were you when my children were younger? I love this idea…I’m goind to save it for the grandkids I hope to be blessed with one day…

    Enjoy BooMama…Enjoy…he’s a real cutie patootie!


  50. Hurray for Howard!

    Hey, guess what…I’m only telling you because you be jealous, um, I mean, because I thought you would appreciate knowing the following due to all your very intimate ties with fancy professional singer type people:

    I get to sing with Cherie Adams (previously of Avalon) in November. How cool is THAT?????

    On The 3rd she’s doing a conference at our church and I am in the women’s group leading the worship. The next day she is singing WITH out worship team for the service. Woot!

    And now, the important question: WHAT SHOULD I WEAR???? Boo-Mama, you GOTTA help me!

  51. OK Alex is just squeeezably cute so much so I can barely stand it!

    How bout you add a few rooms of my house on that list? Double checks and cookies all around in this house for the little guy. Ah yes bribery will get me everywhere….I’m certain. :0)


  52. Ahhh! Avalon!!! I LOVE them just bout as good as POG! OK so I’m totally taking over your guestbook but gosh I just couldn’t contain myself. Avalon…Can you just stand it?? LOL

    Hmm what should groovyoldlady wear?? Something comfy of course and not too tight around the tummy so you can sing all proper like. There’s nothin worse than tight clothes when your trying to pull that last looooong note from your gut. :0)


  53. That’s awesome! How wonderful to find something that works so well.

  54. This is too funny, I wish I had responded to those kind of charts maybe I would be in a much higher role today, like president or something!

  55. Good Job Howard!!!! LMAO! (Still thinking that was hilarious)

    Is there any way I can get Zach’s teacher in on this little deal? Anything to get him to pick up his room and playroom.

  56. Before you go down this road, please read “Death by Rewards”. Rewards are a short-term fix, like caffeine. Trust me on this– this digs a hole deeper than you can come out of. How are you going to “gold star” a teenager? A car? A house? The reward becomes the ONLY motivation and, doggoneit, we should do the right things because they’re the right things, not because we “cash in”.

  57. And with that I’m off to SchoolWorks to pick up the biggest chart and the shiniest stars I can find! I’ve avoided the chart thing thus far because of the fear that it’s a preschool precursor to a life of crazy listmaking like Mommy :)

  58. Wow!

    I just want you to know that I said “Wow” in a hushed, reverent manner,because I am all impressed and stuff… and just a tinge envious that my two year old can’t follow directions yet, but secretly hoping that one day, he too may rise to the ranks of the toddler who gets things done for a check mark!

    And so, it bears repeating… Wow!

  59. Woo Hoo! It’s always nice when a plan works! :-) We just started this with our daughter, because she has so many different things to remember to do each day/night, such as memory verse for school, memory verse for Wed. night Truth Trackers, piano practice, feed dog, do homework, etc., and she had different things each day as well, so my chart has each day divided into “Things to Do”, “Things to Remember” (such as gym shoes each Wed. and Fri. and piano books on Mon.), “Special Events” (so we don’t forget that field trip to the zoo, or the program at school), then a space for a sticker if she gets it all done! She’ll get a reward each month for having good weeks!

  60. I so wish my middle child would respond to positive reinforcement. We have not found any type of reinforcemnt to motivate her.
    Sigh . . .