“Why do I have to use behavior management, when I can just whip him and he’ll do what I want to avoid another whipping?” “Aren’t you just bribing your child to do good, with all that fancy psycho-babble?” Oh, the things I put up with as a practicing child psychologist. Don’t get me wrong. I know that you folks are well intentioned and that you have your child’s best interests at heart. Nonetheless, when you notice concerning behavior from your child, whipping it out of him may lead to compliance, but out of fear and at the cost of any meaningful, emotionally intimate relationship with that child.
One form of behavior management is simply defining reward and consequence for your child. “Andy, play nice with your sister and you both get a treat. Be mean to her and you will spend the rest of the day in your room.” This may encourage compliance, and reinforces your absolute authority, but does not bring you closer together.
When little Janey is involved in the process, then behavior management becomes a teachable moment, your authority is secure, and you are working on the “Good Kid” project together. In chapter 2 of my book, Teachable Moments: Building Blocks of Christian Parenting, where I answer the question, “Who’s In Charge,” I lay out use of The Good Kid Chart. This is your go-to for using behavior management as a teachable moment. First, you define the target behaviors in positive terms. “No hitting your sister” becomes “Play nicely together.” These target behaviors are tracked daily through the week, with both daily and weekly reward for your child showing the behavior. Reviewing her progress as a part of her bedtime routine encourages the joint effort.
In addition to the Good Kid Chart, put together three, brightly decorated posters. With her help and participation, list daily rewards, weekly rewards, and consequences on one poster each. Be creative in what goes on each list. Encourage her involvement, but only include items that are within your time and expense restrictions. Once all is in place, try it for a week and see how it goes. As she succeeds at certain items, celebrate, and talk about what else she might work on. Remove and add items as she progresses. The beauty is that this is a fluid and continual chart that gives you opportunity to be an involved parent, work and grow together, and create teachable moments in your Christian parenting.