Friday, February 01, 2013

our conversations chart

it's amazing the impact scribbled stars on paper has on my children. reward charts have always worked well for us. my kids are suckers for the age-old concept of doing X to earn a star, earn Y amount of stars and get Z, the reward. they like the systematic do this, earn that. the funniest part about it, though, is that we usually only get about a week into the reward chart system before they're doing X automatically, without worrying about earning the star! so when we're working on developing a particular habit, routine, or behavior, it's worth it to me to come up with a reward chart system to motivate them.

the most recent reward chart we had was the Conversations Chart.  

the object of this chart was to encourage my children (ages 7 and 4) to engage in proper conversations with grown-ups. this means making eye contact, speaking clearly, and asking and answering questions with an adult, when accompanied by Mom and Dad. for every conversation they have, they earn a star on the chart. for every row of stars they get (4 in a row), they get to order a dessert the next time we eat at a restaurant. {<- to my kids, this is huge, believe me}

so, for instance, when the grocery store cashier asks them "and how are you today?" no more looking down at the ground, kicking the wall while mumbling "good." an acceptable reply - a reply that would earn them a star on the new chart - would be "i'm fine, thank you. how are you?" again, while making eye contact and speaking clearly to the cashier.

to be clear, i don't want my kids engaging in conversations with anyone anywhere. stranger danger! this was a challenge to break out of our little shells and talk comfortably and confidently to adults that we come in contact with in real life. i wanted to take the intimidation factor out of speaking to friendly adults out in public. and it's possible that maybe i wanted to get rid of any hint of a stigma attached to my homeschooled kids that they don't know how to "socialize" with grown-ups. and maybe i'm just tired of defending them with "oh, he's just being quiet today," and answering for them.  

the Conversations Chart had amazing results right away! they now order their own meals from waiters at restaurants{star}, they ask the librarian for help to find books or use the computers {star}, they approach and introduce themselves to children at the park {star}, and when someone pays them a compliment, they respond with thank you and a comment to engage a conversation {star}. Big Girl, my shy one, struck up a conversation with and befriended a little girl on the playground the other day. that's a big deal for her! Bubba, who's biggest hurdle was speaking clearly, is making a valiant effort to have conversations with grown-ups and fill his chart with stars. he's more competitive and really likes dessert. both of them beam with pride when they've had a conversation with someone new. and i've noticed the grown-ups are quite impressed by their behavior, too.

after about 5 days of seeking opportunities for conversations and drawing stars on their charts, the conversations started becoming natural. they forgot about the chart but remembered the habit. their blossoming self-confidence is a greater reward than dessert.

those little stars scribbled in squares have great impact. but i pray the greatest impact is in my children's lives and in the lives of the grown-ups that get to have a conversation with them.