Review Progress and Adjust Your Program (continued)
Assess Your Charts
When you have several weeks’ worth of experience and charts, begin your first assessment of how far your child has come toward mastering one or more behaviors. Arrange your charts on a table from left to right so that you can read across from week to week for each item. If you have made changes while fine-tuning, take care in looking across the row of charts to stay with the same item. With the charts ready for easy viewing, examine the charts for trends showing improvement, lack of movement, or decline.
Below is a sample from our mythical Johnny’s charts for just one item across six weeks. The results for the six consecutive weeks are lined up here in six rows just for convenience and ease of discussion. For purposes of this illustration, Johnny was responsible to take the trash out every day of the week. Before you read further, please spend a moment looking over these results and getting a feel for how to understand them. What do you notice about how Johnny is doing, based upon the record for this one item over six weeks? Once you have your own thoughts in mind, read on.
Figure 12. Sample of Johnny’s progress on one item over a period of six weeks
Week 1 shows that Johnny got the trash out on time on Monday and Wednesday. Whether that represents any change or not depends on how often Johnny had done the task before the program was started. If he never did it, two out of seven seems promising. On the other hand, if he typically did it two or three times a week, this doesn’t show any progress – yet.
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If your parents didn’t have any children, there’s a good chance that you won’t have any.
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Week 2 shows Johnny succeeding only on Wednesday, a decline from the previous week and surely not what his parents had hoped for. While it would be easy to be discouraged, this is a new program and both Johnny and his parents are getting used to the new system. Johnny may not yet be invested in earning credits because he doesn’t fully appreciate the way the program will work. Maybe the parents haven’t yet completely given up occasional negative responses that fulfill some of Johnny’s needs for attention even without complying with the reward program. Or maybe they haven’t followed through each day with the daily review, the component that ties all the elements together. Whatever the cause, there is not yet reason for alarm so early in the program.
Week 3 provides more reason for optimism. That week Johnny succeeded on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, four of seven days, a nice doubling of successes from the beginning week. That surely is what Johnny’s parents were looking for, but may or may not be an ongoing trend.
Week 4 Johnny again succeeded on four days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. What do we make of that? It doesn’t show any improvement over the previous week, but that week showed a doubling of the first week, and maybe holding his own for a week is good enough. Investors watching the stock market are pleased with no change after a day of dramatic increases since it bucks the trend for what went up to go down. So far so good.
Week 5 shows Johnny got the trash out on time on Monday, Thursday, and Friday, three of seven. This represents a bit of a decline from the previous two weeks but still is above the starting week, and only one fewer than Weeks 3 and 4. The overall trend continues to appear promising.
Week 6 on Johnny’s chart shows that he met expectation every day but Saturday, a whopping six of seven days. It will take a few more weeks to be sure if this trend will hold up, but so far Johnny appears to be on track and there is plenty of reason for optimism.
But is there anything else we can learn from looking at Johnny’s chart over this six-week period? Likely you will notice, as did at least one parent in every class of whom I asked the same question, that Johnny never succeeded on Saturday even during the last week when he got the trash out on time every other day of the week. What can be made of that observation? While there could be several explanations, only the parents, by observing and talking with Johnny, could find the answer.
Perhaps Johnny had a baseball game each of those Saturdays, and perhaps the games ran long enough that when he came home all sweaty and still pumped up, it was difficult for him to focus on his chores. Or maybe he actually got home too late to be able to get done by 5:30 p.m. Or perhaps he often went away with friends or even a non-custodial parent many Saturdays so that his routine didn’t allow him to get the trash out on time.
With some thought and discussion, the parents are likely to be able to identify whatever factors are at play. Once they have done so, they might elect to modify the program in some way to support Johnny in succeeding on Saturdays also. For our above example, the chart might be amended to say something like:
Johnny, you are successful when you have the trash out by 5:30 p.m., except on Saturdays, when you have until 7:00 p.m. to be done.
The idea here is to recognize legitimate barriers to success and act accordingly. Remember that this whole approach is intended to help you to help your child assume appropriate levels of responsibility. The structure is to support your efforts to get to your goals and therefore is subject to change as you require, as long as you stay true to the principles discussed here.
We have watched Johnny’s successes grow from two to six days per week, over a six-week period, impressive change showing that Johnny is benefitting from the approach. Most importantly, we know that if his parents continue to reinforce Johnny’s behavior, it is virtually inevitable that he will reach the 100 percent probability of continuing to meet expectations. That is, he will have become responsible for his own behavior by self-reinforcement, achieving mastery free of parental direction and rewards.
Let us go on to consider in a somewhat more structured way how you can get the most out of reviewing your child’s chart a few weeks into the program and then periodically thereafter. Over time a variety of circumstances will require you to make modifications in your program. Most of these can be anticipated and will not present major problems.