Instilling Responsibility In My Child, Star Sheets and Reward Systems

by drlazarus on June 12, 2013

As a child psychologist, I am often asked, “How do I instill responsibility in my child?”

If you have often wondered:

  • Why is my child missing homework
  • Why do I have to remind him each day to brush his teeth.
  • Why does she forget her coat
  • Why don’t they clean up their toys and room
  • How do I get him to stop arguing

One of our jobs as parents is to help our children become more responsible and independent.  This is certainly related to their age, as we would expect a child in middle school to be much more responsible than a 4 year old.  However, we can help children of all ages become more responsible and independent.  One of the reasons why kids are not responsible is that we remind them.  We are like their surrogate brain or secretary, reminding kids daily of all the things they have to do.  This allows them to not need to think.  We also often will threaten them with consequences for not cleaning their room, making messes, and forgetting things.  Then we don’t follow through on the consequences.

The key is to do two basic steps:

Step 1: For kids 4-11, create a Star Sheet.

A Star sheet is a grid that has things they need to get done going up and down, and the days of the week going across.

Example:                     Mon    Tue   Wed   Thur   Fri   Sat    Sun

Brush my teeth

Make my bed

Set the table for dinner

In this example, the child can earn 3 stars a day.  They can also earn up to 21 stars a week.   During the day, you can remind your child to check their star sheet and see what they need to complete, instead of asking them, “did you brush your teeth.”   For kids who can’t read yet, you can draw pictures for each item on the list.

Step 2:  Create a reward system that is attached to the stars.

Daily Privileges:  Now that you have your star sheet, make of list of privalages that your child enjoys and also right now gets for free.     Examples of daily rewards could include TV time, video game time, Ipad/ computer time, special toys, special snacks (ice cream), etc.

Some of these privileges will be attached to the daily star sheet.  When your child completes the items for the day, they earn the privilege.  If they do not complete them, they do not earn the privilege for the day.

Weekly Privileges:  Now make a list of some bigger (weekend) privileges that your child could earn.   Examples could include: Allowance, earn a special toy (match box car), go to a movie, bowling, earn a sleepover with a friend, special desert when you go out to eat, etc.

Figure out how many total stars they can earn.  Now calculate 80%.  If they earn that amount, they earn the weekend privilege.  So for example, if Monday-friday, your kid could earn a total of 15 stars, about 12/15 would earn the weekend privileges.

As your child gets better at the items you have picked for your star sheet, feel free to change them to the next things they need to work on.  Generally, I recommend that you have something about school on the star sheet, something about a behavior you want them to work on, and something about hygiene/ household.

Hopefully, you’ll have your child working hard to earn their privileges instead of getting them for free and you will see increased responsibility and improved behavior.
Stay tuned to more on developing Star sheets.

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