A Responsibility Chart For Kids Is Great In Theory, Way Less Helpful In Practice

By  | 

responsibility chartResponsibility charts are the most wonderful parenting tool. In theory. For years, I’ve been told that if I want my daughter to behave or clean her room or feed the dogs, all I needed to do was create a fun little chart measuring her success. Slap some stickers on that sucker, figure out an appropriate prize and all of my discipline and behavior issues would be done! Responsibility charts are the cure to all your parenting ills!

I’m sorry to report that my daughter and I are responsibility chart drop-outs. I believe that children need consistent, logical discipline structures, but this rigid set-up was a nightmare in our house.

When it come to implementation, the responsibility or chore chart couldn’t be more clunky for us. My little girl never actually seemed to care about whether or not she got a sticker, no matter what kind of incentive bait I waved around in front of her. A trip ice skating or a new toy, the prize always seemed too far away for her to bother with it. When I tried to start out with small, more immediate prizes to get her used to the set-up, she balked the minute I pushed our time-table back.

Worse than figuring out the proper presents and how long to make her work for them, we had to remember to track them. Two days would pass before I would remember that we needed to put stickers up. By that point it was too late to chastise for something not done, but my daughter was indignant about not getting the sticker she earned.

I tried to keep our responsibility chart positive. I wanted it to be about the good things my daughter did, not about pointing out her flaws. Stickers for keeping up her room. Stickers to helping out with the puppies. Stickers for going to bed without a fuss. Inevitably, the misbehaviors would crowd in to the consideration though. Did we want to reward her on a day that she had a melt down? Or refused to eat anything at dinner? And how many “good behavior” measures should we be tracking?

These charts are meant to make tracking and rewarding behavior easier. They’re supposed to keep things organized, to help kids understand what is expected of them. In our house, the process just made tracking our daughter’s discipline into one more chore. And my little girl couldn’t possibly care less about it.

I realize that plenty of parents have employed these handy dandy chart with amazing success. Like I said, I completely understand the thought process behind it. But in our house, maybe I’m just not so concerned with behavioral issues being structured. We have good days and we have bad days. We are helpful, and sometimes we fall behind on our familial duties. Quantifying and codifying every single choice and chore doesn’t seem to be our thing.

There are times when I’ll make my daughter work for a treat. I’ll set a single goal, like dusting off the floorboards of the house four times. Once that goal is achieved, my daughter might get a reward. But when it comes to everyday behavior, I just don’t feel like it needs to be charted and incentivized. Is it really so ridiculous to jut expect polite, helpful, kind behavior? No sticker necessary.

(Photo: Melissa & Doug)