Challenges in Developing a Home Program
While I have attempted to be clear in describing the steps to building an effective home program, I know that some of the concepts and ideas may still seem rather vague and that their full richness may not yet be evident. To flesh them out better, what follows are discussions of some questions from parents about each of the three steps involved in developing a custom-made program for your family. Each question is presented here with just enough alterations to assure privacy for those involved.
Step 1: Challenges in Specifying Expectations
Our 11-year-old daughter has a very messy room and when we check it, she says it’s clean but we think it is still too messy. What can we do about that?
Parents tend to see this kind of disagreement as about their standards for their homes and family, while children see it as about their rights and freedoms. When you build your home program, your main challenge is to tightly define what you mean by a “clean room.” Since your daughter typically fails to meet your standards, make sure that each item is realistically reachable, considering both her abilities and her history of actually doing such tasks. If she never does the job as you expect, then you may need to break it into parts and provide reinforcement for each part. For example, you could divide “clean your room” into “hang up your clothes,” “put away your toys,” and “vacuum the floor.” Define each item to include a suitable deadline and specify how you will judge her success. These smaller tasks are much more likely to be completed but will require that you monitor the progress more closely to assure you provide praise and credits for each completed task.
When you have completed refining your items, it should be clear whether the room is clean or not clean by checking its appearance. Since your daughter may attempt to continue the haggling, be prepared to simply inform her of your judgment about her successes and then disengage to end the haggling.
Our program is working pretty well but it still bugs me that I can’t talk on the phone without Susie (7) acting up. Any ideas about how to handle this?
Typically children who demand attention during phone calls have learned that they can get mom to react in those situations. Some may resent the attention mom gives to the other person. Whatever the cause, the approach to dealing with it is pretty standard. Start by defining a success behavior, for example:
Susie, you are successful when you stay quiet and calm for X minutes while Mom is on the phone.
Once the item is added to your program, provide Susie her credits for each X minutes that she succeeds. Set a timer to alert you to when X minutes have passed and if your phone call runs longer than X minutes, excuse yourself briefly, go to Susie, praise her, and provide her with earned credits, or at least tell her they will be put on the chart. While this may be inconvenient in the beginning, it will be better than constantly being interrupted and over time it will teach Susie to tolerate longer periods while you are on the phone.
One other point: if your conversation ends in less than X minutes, I suggest that if Susie knows you were on the phone and it was for more than a minute, you consider her successful. That way Susie won’t feel cheated that the conversation stopped before she could succeed when trying to remain quiet, and she will also have more successes to build on.