Last post I spoke briefly about the frustrations I have had with RP over the past few month and my struggle with his diagnosis of ADHD. Since this is something that he and I will always be working on by creating new coping mechanisms for him, I thought I would share something that I started in the fall. Although it wasn't until December that I had my first meeting with the counselor, she stated the way we use our calender is a great behavior coping mechanism for all kids, but especially with kids with ADHD.
Motivation can be an issue with any kid, but it is particularly difficult for children that fall on the ADHD spectrum. Letting their impulse take over is much easier.
I have always tried to use some sort of chore or behavior chart with RP, but it either did not work or it was too complicated for him to see how good decisions equals reward. RP is so into the iPad that I thought for sure I had scored when I downloaded the Chore Chart, but after a few weeks, the pizzazz of the chart wore off and the motivation of the chart was gone. Through the wisdom of my mother, she suggested that maybe the chore chart on the iPad was not visual enough for RP.....I swear to you, my mom is the wisest woman in the world.
So between the failed attempts of stickers to show good decisions, my mom suggesting something visual that he can see very day, and the very often suggestion that there is a reward at a certain point in gaining the praises, I decided RP would have the opportunity to earn two different types of stickers in a day. The first sticker, a solid face happy sticker. This sticker is earned by behavior decisions at school. We have gone in and out of phases where RP's teacher will email me regarding his behavior, hence a sticker earned for school.
At first, I know that RP would exaggerate how well he did at school, thinking that I would not know if he was telling me the truth or not....but because his teacher and I have created an open communication relationship, he quickly learned that he could only be honest about earning the solid face sticker. It was a really amazing experience the first time he stated that he did not deserve a solid face sticker. I asked him how his day went at school and he hesitated but said it went well. When I asked him if he deserved a sticker, he sighed and stated that he was given one reminder by his teacher and did not feel as though he had earned his reward. Since then, that is the way it has worked. He actively participates in not only earning the reward, but reflecting upon his behavior during that part of the day that I can not witness helps him see when and where he made good and bad decisions. When his behavior is on an even plane, watching him reflect and comment on his day feels like a huge parenting success.
The second sticker is for the evening and weekends. This one is way more fancy, it is all glittery and purdy. These are more obvious as to when it is earned. While there is still discussion about his decisions and he has time for self reflection, it is not the same as the solid face stickers.
Each month RP would choose a big prize and then we also had a list of smaller prizes from a prior attempt at a behavior chart. The break down is like this....he could cash in stickers or collect them until the end of the month. For every 10 solid face stickers, he could earn a small prize (ie picking a redbox or netflix movie, picking a game to play, passing the football ect) and the same could happen for every 14 glitter face stickers. He could choose to save until he reached 35 stickers for a prize that was named at the beginning of the month. The first few prizes he chose and earned were movies, The Avengers and Madagascar 3. While I was not crazy about movies being the prize, he was motivated and that was the most important part. One month he chose a bag of marbles as his prize, kinda just reminds you of the innocence of children.
At the beginning of January, things had been tough. He spent a lot time at my Dad's house where there was no sticker calender. When I asked what he would want his grand prize option to be, he said he could not think of anything. That worried me that the motivation was gone. I suggested a sleep over. He agreed. Although he worked very hard in the month of January, there were some stickers that were given to him based on a second chance, not the first behavior displayed. I also started more bonus stickers in January based on him going above and beyond expectations. Most of his bonus stickers were earned by getting up, dressed and ready for school on his own. So his reward was earned for January.....kind of.
Where I failed
One thing that I have always read is that there can not be a reward delay with children. They are learning when learning, they need to be praised quickly and redirected quickly. Just like when we punish children for bad behavior, we don't wait to execute whatever the consequence may be, it is immediate and once it is over, we move on.....well, we attempt to....obviously, we are all human and what we read about parenting is not always executed to 100%. Where I went wrong was delay in rewarding him.....well that is one place. Around December, like many, the budget was tight so the reward was put on hold. While he did get everything he earned, there was a delay. A delay that eventually back lashed his motivation. February was a really bad month for RP and myself. Very tense and like every nerve for both of us was exposed. He had lost all motivation in earning stickers and was not being honest with his behavior during the day at school. So now we have out sticker calender with no "want" to earn the stickers. The lack of reward to him as he earned it had caught up with him.
A second bit of failure on my part was also against something that I have read over and over again....I took a sticker already earned away for bad behavior. While I do take away privileges when he goes way beyond just not earning a sticker, I was then taking away something that he had already worked hard to get. The behavior at the time had nothing to do with the sticker that was earned. It was one of those desperate measures thing that happens when you parent. I was angry with him, nothing else was working, so I hit him below the belt, so to say. I knew that he would be extremely upset and compliant if I removed a sticker from the calender. I will tell you what, although it may have worked in that moment, I felt guilty as all hell about it. Plus, I think that if I would have done that more than a couple times, the back lash of motivation would be much worse that what I have been experiencing.
Now that we have had a month go by that has had no rewards.....and after talking to the counselor about this change, I have revamped our calender and introduced two times to earn sticker.
Often times, RP can get up and get dressed famously on his own but then he would have a bad afternoon at school. Or he would have an amazing evening but a miserable bedtime. While the bonus stickers were there when he was first gaining the responsibility of getting himself out of bed, now it is something that is more expected and tying that responsibility into his entire day at school was too difficult to reward. He sees them as connected but separate. He understands better now the cycle of a good morning can become a good day and evening and night or converse of that, and we have spent a lot of time with the analogy of the bad mood ball rolling down the hill. But they are still separate to him. So now we have introduced the star sticker. This is only earned when he wakes up or when he goes to sleep.
Another revamp of the calender is the timeline. This also makes much more sense to me after having a very bad month. He needs to be re-motivated. So now we are only basing the reward on a week, not a build up or a cash in at the end of the month. Again, it was too much delay between the hard work and the reward. I am still working out the kinks because we just started this last week.....but he had a good week. The reward was a trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum, unfortunately, he did not earn enough stickers. This was tough and he was disappointed. I was disappointed. But I held to my guns and we did not go. It was frustrating because I could see how hard he was working. Our Pack meeting that we had last week was one of his best ever. He separated himself from his favorite buddy during the portion of the meeting where he needed to be listening.
He was still rewarded, we played a few different card games and it was fun. This weekend though, the Art Museum trip is back on the plan.....and he is doing well so far this week. For now he is to earn 3 stickers in each category, wake up, day time, evening, and bedtime.....it sounds like too much, but for him, I think it'll work. If they aren't all earned again this week, I will have to re-evaluate where he is having the most trouble.
So this was a long winded post! For right now, I am hoping to be able to give suggestions and gain suggestions from anyone who is parenting an ADHD child and, in my case, who is not medicating. I am still in the beginning parts of my research of ADHD, so really don't know that much......and I ramble a lot. :)