Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kids' Character Challenge

Back in December, while the kids and I were on break, we started to get a little bit...tired of each other. The weather was bad and we spent a lot of time stuck in the house together. I was starting to pull my hair out for a way for everyone to get their moods back on track. Then I had an idea! I tried it out and it actually helped, so I tweaked it a little bit and tried it again the next month. Now were are on our fourth month and I think it's time to share.

The Kids' Character Challenge

The idea started out rather simply. I wanted the kids to be more helpful, so I made it a challenge. I told them that each time they were helpful to me or their dad or each other, I would give them a "helper point." At the end of the month, the child with the most helper points would get to choose a special prize for the family. I took a piece of paper, divided it into thirds, and wrote the kids' names at the tops of the columns. I pinned it up in the living room and started adding hashmarks each time someone was helpful.
Character Challenge: Responsibility
One important detail that I found to be helpful was to be very mindful of my language in regards to the chart. Each time someone did something helpful, I would say, "Thank you. That was very helpful. I'm going to give you a helper point." Seeing one of their siblings receive helper points would often spur the others to try harder.
At the end of December, Frances was the winner! She chose a trip to Sweet Frog, a local frozen yogurt shop. As we loaded into the van, I made a point to talk with the kids about how nice it had been to have them working extra hard to be helpful. I also made the essential point that makes the whole competition worth doing: when each of us work harder to help each other, WE ALL WIN! It wasn't just the person with the most points getting froyo, we all got to go together.
We've continued with the character challenge with different ttraits each month. So far we've done kindness, generosity, and responsibility. Henry won the last two months and chose a swimming trip and a ice cream run to McDonald's. It was really fun going swimming in January (at an indoor pool, of course)! It was nice to be able to spend that time together all while congratulating Henry on a job well done.
Character Challenge: ice cream reward
They are working on being responsible this month. I've taken to defining the character trait on our chart so the kids know exactly what they are working on. The kids enjoy competing for the honor of choosing the reward, but they also enjoy celebrating together as a family and praising each other for working hard.
As you can see from the pictures, Ben has been behind all three months. He's only three, so maybe he's less ready to internalize the traits we are working on, but he still enjoys earning points, and as I pointed out earlier, we all win when we work together.
Character challenge: traits
One of my favorite parts about this game is the simplicity. It is not complicated to keep track of and the rules don't need to be repeated daily. In all honesty, I can forget about encouraging them for a day or two and there are no ill effects. They often ask if a certain behavior will earn them a point, which reminds me about it and I am happy to reward a point if it has been earned.
I'm not sure which character trait we'll work on next month. I've been looking back on their most recent behavior issues and choosing a new trait that will challenge them just enough. We've even talked together about which trait they would like to work on. This family challenge is making all five of us more mindful of the people we want to be and the traits we want to espouse.
Do you have a way to work on character building with your children? What works for you?

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