When pregnant with our triplets, I remember thinking about our family of six may just end up being the loudest family on our quiet block. During the first year, I was completely wrong. The boys had their moments of loud crying, but overall we were not at all the loud family I had expected. Quickly we discovered each of the boys had some speech and language delays. This reality meant they were not nearly as loud or talkative as their peers.
Fast forward a few years and all my expectations have come to fruition. Our family is loud. We talk a lot. We talk to those listening, and we talk to those who are not. Overall, this means our family is fun, energetic, full of laughter, and we have a lot to say! However, it also means we are not the best at listening. When COVID happened and our family was at home for a long stretch of time, I realized the habit of not listening was getting a bit out of control. This mama had to intervene. I needed something simple and easy to enforce, and easy for others to enforce as well. After consulting with my sister, the teacher, I remembered something simple I used previously to help children with behaviors: a behavior chart. Simple, yes. Easy to enforce, yes. Easy for children to understand, yes. Many parents already use them to help with potty training. I was not about to recreate the wheel, but needed something readily available as well as a tool to help the boys with number sense. Bam. A hundreds board. Well, technically I used half of a hundreds board, as 100 small labeled squares looked a little daunting for my little ones. I have used this for a year now and am ready to share what has worked for our family.
Goal. My first recommendation is to limit the behavior you are trying to change. I started out not nearly as specific with my goals. I wanted them to listen, follow directions, and be kind to their brothers. Honestly, this was too much. I backed up a bit and limited the goal to one clear expectation: listening. This was the only goal for our hundreds board. And it worked indefinitely better.
Opportunity. This is more important when beginning the chart. I gave them silly opportunities to earn points.. I told them to put their hands on their heads. POINTS! Stand up. POINTS! I would give points for listening to a whisper or responding from another space in the house. POINTS! The boys initially were finding success with simple listening opportunities, which motivated them while they were catching on to my behavior plan.The boys would ask for points. My opinion is to give freely, especially at the onset of the behavior chart to help facilitate the participation.
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Reward. The reward part of the chart is more flexible depending on your family and what motivates your kids. We rewarded after the end of each row on the hundreds chart, so after they reached 10 points. At first, their reward was a chocolate kiss. I had these on hand, so it was an easy implementation. Pay attention to what each kid likes the best and see how you can implement this to your benefit. My older son enjoys choosing what to watch on TV. So, no TV until everyone reaches a 10. But his extra reward was making a TV choice. If they fight over which book they read at night, let the POINTS decide. After they completely filled their board, they had a more enticing reward.
Consistency. This seems to be the most difficult for parents. Life is busy. The charts are not always near or a visual reminder. Whenever I was inconsistent, the importance of the chart quickly deteriorated. After realizing this deterioration, I found giving additional opportunities for rewards was key to the success of reintroduction of the chart. Of course, my recommendation would be to remain consistent in the first place. But having a plan to increase compliance with additional opportunities is my ticket back to consistency for everyone.
Extinguishing. Most parents want to know up front how long this chart will need to be implemented; how many rewards do we really need to make this work? Well, it depends. After your children have met goals repeatedly, they are ready for larger goals. Reward at different increments. Choose ten random numbers for rewards instead of always at the end of a row, which also helps spice things up a bit. Provide smaller rewards and one greater reward at the end of the goal sheet. Eliminate small rewards and offer only a larger reward upon completion. When thinking of extinguishing, it is important to be flexible. If the chart seems not to work as efficiently, give rewards freely. If the listening goal has been met by the family, choose a secondary goal. Add opportunities for listening along with your second goal. I like this blank hundreds board because it is the most flexible for families, as well as convenient when you are ready to change the goal.
After a year of implementation, our family is still loud, fun, and full of funny stories to share. We are also a family who understands the power of a listening ear. We are learning how to show each other we hear, understand, and welcome stories…just one at a time. Perhaps our next goal, be kind to your brothers, is within reach!
About the author
Jessica Orr is TLC’s Triplet and Connecticut Associate and a mother of four brothers, a six-year–old singleton and four-year-old triplets. This North Carolina native has called many states home with her Navy husband. She is currently enjoying the amazing Connecticut summers and learning the fine art of fire building during winter. Her whirlwind beginning of multiple motherhood included a month of bed rest at home, hospital bed rest, and a two month NICU stay. This season of struggle helped Jessica to appreciate the joys found daily, at least during those fleeting moments of solitude. A former school counselor, Jessica enjoys sharing her jolly journey of mothering multiples with all new parents. You can reach Jessica at email@example.com for more information about our Connecticut and Triplet services.