Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Color Coded Discipline


I hope you all are enjoying this awesome fall weather as much as the kiddos and I are.  It's allowed us to enjoy outside activities without being overly hot or freezing cold.  We've gone apple picking, and tomorrow we have plans for a pumpkin picking field trip.  I am truly loving all the time we are spending together as a family.

With that said, allow me to keep it all the way real.  Sometimes, my kids are off the hook, and I'd rather not spend time with them at all.  I have been that woman in Target with a baby screaming, a 3 year old running wildly through the clothes, and a 4 year old having a melt down because he has been denied his latest request for something (ANYTHING) new.

How do I handle these situations?  Well, to begin with, I try to avoid these situations all together.   I know their triggers: tired, bored, or hungry (basically the same for any kid). I find that if my children are scheduled and fed, they are pretty good kids... actually very good.  When we go out, I try and remember to give them the "mommy talk".  Basically I break down my expectations, and consequences.  While home we have a routine (not so much a schedule) that they come to expect.  In the morning, Ace asks what we are doing for the day.  He's that textbook child who thrives on a routine.  I believe it makes him feel secure and safe, otherwise he can be a very worried child.  He reminds me of the book Wemberly Worried.  I can go into more details about our daily routine or plan in another post.

However, there are those times when for whatever reason, they act a mess, routine, "mommy talk" or not.  On one particular day about a year ago, Ace was having one of those days.  He was being a monster.  I thought I was going to loose my mind.  Screaming, yelling, slamming doors.  It was me vs. my (at the time) 3 year old.  Once the battle was over, and we were both calm, I knew something had to change.  I mean I was a teacher in an urban area, with often over 25 kids to keep in line.  How come I couldn't keep my own child in order.

You know the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention".  Well, I didn't invent anything, but I did tweek a system that I used in my classroom, and our color coded discipline system was born.  It is very simple.  I glued blocks of craft foam to a piece of white paper leaving about 2 or 3 inches of white on the top.  I fold over the top to create a place to slide a ribbon through and voila done.  I hung it with a Command Strip in our Kitchen Art Center.  I wanted it to be very visual.

How do I use this?  

Well, each child has a clothespin.  Their names are written on them with a Sharpie.  For the picture I flipped them so their names don't show.  I only have one for Ace, and Bear now, but at some point when he's old enough I'll add a clothespin for CJ.  In the morning the clothespins start at the top in dark green.  Everyday is new and they can start fresh each day.  I want to teach them that bad days happen, but we must move on and make the next day better.  The color chart is as follows:

Dark Green = Perfect Day: Dessert (Usually pudding, fruit, or fruit snacks), iPad or phone time before bath, plus a magnet on responsibility chart for Ace.  Ace has a Melissa and Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart, it comes with lots of pre-written responsibilities and also a few blank, so you can write your own.  I added a good listening responsibility.  If he gets 7 magnets (sunday through saturday), he is rewarded with a treat of his choice (with in reason). 

Light Green = Pretty good day: Dessert, iPad or phone time before bath, no magnet

Yellow = Okay Day: Dessert, no iPad or phone

Orange = Needs Improvement Day: No Dessert, No electronics

Red = Very bad, No good, Horrible day: Straight to bed after dinner, no dessert, no bath, no book, Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (a little Monopoly humor.. lol).

We have only ever had a Red day once, and rarely orange.  Every child tests the limits sometimes.

How do they move up and down the chart?

  When the boys get time-out, they move down from one color to the next.  On most days they stay in the green (dark or light).  I have on occasion, moved a clothespin back up a space.  This only happens for exceptional unsolicited behavior or actions.  For example I once caught Ace cleaning the playroom and getting Bear to help.  I didn't ask him to.  He was truly just being a good kid.  On the other hand there have been times he is in yellow, and will say "mommy, look, I just picked up my Legos.  Can you move me back up?"  Nope, doesn't work like that.  

I like this system because it allows me to have a concrete reference for their behavior.  My husband always asks how the boys were when he gets home from work.  Sometimes, by that time I am so tired, and brain fried, I don't remember the morning tantrum.  Simply seeing that someone's clothespin is in light green helps me to remember.  It's also perfect for small children, as it is a visual representation of their behavior.  

We've been using this system for about a year and it works for us.  What discipline systems (if any) do you use in your home?


  1. Love today's posting!!! Truly, the boys are blessed to have a Mommy aka Teacher at Heart. It will give me idea for T and J and hopefully one day when it is my turn to have Little Ones... hopefully your blogs continue and if they do not, please ARCHIVE!!! LOL

    1. Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed. I love to share tips... in hopes parents will share with me too.