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The Choice Chart is a revolutionary behavior management system for children. Parents have been raving about it. This video covers how and why the Choice Chart works so well for children from age 3 until they move out. It shares The Rules and takes you through Step 1 of the Choice Chart, which is Identifying the Behavior Type.

Click here to get PDFs of The Rules, Choice Charts for 1 – 4 children, as well as language you can use to explain the rules and introduce the Choice Chart to your children.

Click here for Word versions of Choice Charts for 1 – 4 children which can be used to customize the chart for your children.

Hi, my name is Cara Day. Welcome to Daychild. This is the first video in a series on behavior management. Today I’m going to be talking with you about the choice chart. We chose the choice chart because the number one issue my clients ask about is daily behavior management.

I developed the Choice Chart when my four children were 3, 5, 7, and 9 years old. I needed something that would work no matter where we were and no matter what we were doing. The Choice Chart does just that.

And the good news is that this system works whether you have one child, or a bit more. It works with children beginning around age 3 until they leave the house, or until they reach an age and a level of maturity when you just don’t need it anymore. And you would know when that is. Also, the whole program is modifiable to work for the individual needs of your family.

I have been presenting this system in the Happy Kids class since 2007 as well as teaching it to families through my private practice. Families love to share about their success with the Choice Chart. Overwhelmingly, they also share how much their children like the Choice Chart. One time I stopped using it for a month when we were moving. After we got settled, the kids starting asking, “When are we going to start the Choice Chart again?” The Choice Chart creates a consistency and predictability with discipline that children both enjoy and benefit from.

Before diving in, there’s a caveat.You can’t just implement the Choice Chart and expect an immediately beautiful family culture to emerge. This system has been taught in the context of a 7-hour class. The Choice Chart is only one hour of the class. And, now, you are experiencing it as one small part of a large body of information and ideas about building a beautiful family culture. This system is a tool.

The analogy I like to use is to imagine that you are building a beautiful home that is going to be everything you have ever wanted it to be. You have the vision, the plans, the workers, and the materials, and everyone is engaged. In this scenario, the Choice Chart is the hammer and the nails. It’s not the whole house, but it’s an essential part makes building the house a lot easier–and a lot more fun. It’s a tool, when wielded by an able user, can be the foundation of something really beautiful.

You might consider using the Choice Chart if you:

Frequently repeat yourself before your children will do what you say
Want to create more harmony between siblings
Feel yourself getting worked up or stressed when redirecting or disciplining your children
Feel at a loss at times as to exactly when a child should receive a consequence or not
Feel at a loss about what consequence your child should have
Are often told by your children, “That’s not fair!” or “He never gets in trouble, only me!”
Feel at a loss at times about how much to “lecture,” reward, and praise children
Your parenting sometimes feels like a chore and you want to start having more fun as a family
Or, you want to have even more fun with your already fun family!

One more thing: I can’t recommend going it alone with the Choice Chart if one or more of your children is often violent toward you, other family members, or their surroundings. It’s not that you can’t use it, it’s just that I would want you to use it in conjunction with professional therapy.

So, here are the elements of the choice chart:

First, you have the rules.
Next, you follow a few simple steps.
And, lastly, you need your choice chart and some stickers. Or, if you think your kids are too old for stickers, just use a pen to mark the chart.

Let’s start with the rules.

1. The Rules

Parents make the rules. In this instance, I made the rules, but you are going to present them as your rules. Kids do not make the rules. You are ultimately responsible for your children. This is why you get to make the rules.

I made these rules for the first class I taught as an elementary school teacher, before my own children were here. If you look at this picture, from 1993, you’ll see my great 80s haircut and the rules on the far right wall behind the flag–they haven’t changed! At that time, I wanted to think of three or four simple, positively-stated rules that would cover any behavior that could be displayed in the classroom.

Here are the rules:

1. We cooperate.
2. We speak kindly.
We keep our hands, feet and other objects to ourselves.

As it turned out, the rules did cover everything, so these became the same rules used with my own children once they were born. These rules are the foundation of the Choice Chart system.

How to explain the rules to your children:

We cooperate.

This means we participate in our family with a cooperative attitude. The prefix “co” means “with,” so to cooperate means to co-operate, to operate together. When we are operating together, life is more fun. This means you are doing what helps the family, or the group as a whole, at any given time. Sometimes being cooperative will mean you are doing something you’ve been asked to do. Other times being cooperative will mean you stop doing something you are asked to stop doing. Being cooperative will help our family have more fun.

We speak kindly.

This means that we use a kind tone of voice and that we use kind words to express our feelings, even when we are upset. Being sad, frustrated, or angry does not give any one of us the right to speak rudely or in a mean way to someone in our family. Going forward, we will all speak kindly to one another.

We keep our hands, feet and other objects to ourselves.

This means we will only touch each other in loving ways. We will not hurt each other with objects, or throw things, even if you think it’s just playing. This rule will help everyone in our family to know they are physically safe. Even when you are very frustrated, you may not hit, push, or be mean physically in any way.

Some parents and teachers make the mistake of creating a long list of rules. Another mistake is listing things you do not want your kids to do. Words are very powerful and you don’t want to have those words in your home.

This list of rules:

No hitting
No biting
No yelling
No running
No teasing
No name-calling
No leaving a mess

May quickly turn to this:

name-calling and…
leaving a mess

Don’t talk about what you don’t want to see. Use your words to create the culture in your family.

At the end of this video there will be link to all of the free resources you need to implement the choice chart right away, which includes a pdf of these rules. You just have to print it out. By posting the rules, they become easy to learn and refer to.

Ok, so now for the steps.

The Steps

Here are the basic steps of the system. Each is equally important. All are modifiable.

Step 1 Identify the Behavior type
Step 2 Give Verbal Redirection
Step 3 Isolate
Step 4 Mark Penalty
Step 5 Reward with Pay Day Dinner (words go on the screen as I say them)

Then, a few more elements that you need to know:

How to introduce the choice chart to your children.
Why is isolation the consequence?
What happens at the third penalty?
What happens when we’re not at home and xyz?

Ok, so let’s get started with Step 1

Step 1

A child in need of redirection will be exhibiting one of these three types of behavior:
1. Start
2. Stop
3. Never

A start behavior is something you want your child to start doing: take a bath, do your homework, clean up, set the table, get dressed, get in the car, help your dad and things like that…

A stop behavior is something you want your child to stop doing, like: making unnecessary noise, whining, bouncing a ball in the house, complaining, incessant talking, watching television, or kicking the back of my seat…

A never behavior is something you never want your child to do. You will determine what your never behaviors are before you introduce the Choice Chart. This is so when you introduce the choice chart, you can discuss what your family’s never behaviors are, so they can be known by all.

That’s because what you do when your child does a never behavior, is different than what you do with a start or stop behavior. We will get to that in a little bit.

Your never list might include:

Touching dangerous things.
Taking an unnecessary safety risk
Defiance toward parents
Violence toward anyone
Destroying things
Using swear words
Saying “shut-up” or “stupid” or similar put downs that make your skin crawl

The never list can evolve as your children grow and new issues come up. It’s also cool because sometimes you can add a behavior to the never list that you simply are just done seeing in your home.

For start and stop behaviors, you have now reached your one chance for a brief explanation of what you want your child to think about before moving on to the next step.

You only want to provide this brief explanation if this is a new behavior for your child.

You do not want to spend time re-explaining why a behavior is unacceptable, or why you want to see your child start a particular behavior if you have already done so before.

Here are two examples of what you might say if you think your child needs a brief explanation about his or her current behavior choice before you move on to the second step.

Let’s say your child is in the family room and he is throwing all of his toys out of his toy basket.

You noticed that a rule has been broken. The rule that’s been broken is: We Cooperate.

You’ve mentally identified the behavior as a stop behavior because you want them to STOP throwing their toys.

Before redirecting your child, you may want to say, “When you throw your toys, they might break or they might hit someone. You’re also making quite a mess that you will have to pick up. When you do this, I might decide to put your toys away until you can treat them with respect.”

However, if this is not the first time your child has done this, which will usually be the case, and you have at some point already provided an explanation as to the expectation you hold that his behavior choice is not meeting. In that case, you would skip the explanation and go directly to redirecting your child.

Another example would be if your child is not engaging at soccer practice or in a lesson of some sort.

You noticed that a rule has been broken. The rule that’s been broken is: We Cooperate.

Next, you would identify the behavior type as a start behavior. That is, you want your child to start engaging.

If it was the first time you have seen your child not being engaged with the lesson, you might check in with them and say, “Your coach (or teacher) has done their part in showing up. I have brought you here to participate. It is your responsibility to engage and do your best.”

Again, if it isn’t the first time your child has done this, don’t explain it or discuss it with them again and again. You would simply redirect your child right after you have identified it as a start behavior with no further explanation needed.

At this point, you’ve identified the behavior as a stop start or never behavior, and, if it was the first time your child displayed the behaivor, you offered a brief explanation as to why the behavior isn’t working for your child.

So now you’re ready for the next step which is to redirect your child.

We will talk about this in the next video, as well as the importance of teaching your children you mean what you say–the first time!