Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Move Your Clip - a Discipline Plan that Works!

I've done a few posts here at The Mama Dramalogues, in which I've shared my frustration when it comes to disciplining my two girls. Gracie and Annelie are 5 and 3, and are very good little girls... but are also very high energy little trouble makers who spend quite a fair amount of time fighting with each other and all around driving me to morph from a calm, rational woman to a maniacal screaming lunatic.

Obviously that wasn't working for me, but despite reading self-help books and trying all sorts of things from the naughty corner time-out to taking privileges away (already I watch the red food dye intake and monitor sugars and items with high-fructose corn syrup and such) I just wasn't finding a solution that worked for us.

Until now. I actually got this idea from Gracie's kindergarten teacher. I'm not sure how her teacher's system works completely, but when Gracie steps off the school bus crying that she "moved her clip" I know that she got in trouble in class, and that she is very unhappy about that.

Using the idea of moving a clip to show punishment, I made up a little chart out of index cards (the picture above - 1 pink index card, 1 yellow, and 2 blue - the above picture is missing one blue rectangle. Our chart has 8 rectangles) and though my illustrations aren't amazing, they are a good reminder for my non-reading 3-year-old of what she can lose by being naughty.

How it works -

Each kid has a large paper clip in which I strung on one colored bead to represent them.

Every day starts fresh, and when they do things that they know they are not supposed to be doing (ie fighting, hitting, biting, wrecking each others stuff, wrecking my stuff, not listening, torturing the pets, et cetera, et cetera...) they physically move their clip from one box to the next.

There are two warning spots (blue rectangles) but when it is daytime and they move out of the blue, they begin to lose their pink privileges - their three most favorite things: TV time, dress up and art.

Once the evening hits, we move into the yellow, so even if they haven't lost TV or dress up, they could still lose their after-dinner dessert or bed time story. Or the worst for them - automatic early bedtime.

THEY CAN EARN THEIR PRIVILEGES BACK - this is probably the best part, because I find that when they are given the ability to redeem themselves, they WANT to do it. My girls are young, and sometimes when they are upset or angry, their behavior can spiral out of control and they might end up losing more than one of their privileges in a short amount of time.

If they lose a privilege they want to earn back I give them a job that I feel is worth it (ie washing the floor, folding laundry - usually a job to help me around the house) and for each job, they get to move their clip back one space. They usually like to do enough to keep them in the blue.

If it is still daytime, and they are at the end of the pink, it is an automatic "nap time." This one is actually for my benefit, because if they've done 5 naughty things before 4:30 pm, I usually need a mental break as my kids don't generally nap (haven't napped for at least 2-3 years). After that, they can either sit in their rooms all day, or do jobs to earn their privileges back.

We've been doing this for about 3 weeks now, and honestly, it is amazing. The index cards are small, and fold easily into the size of one card, which I can stick in my purse and take with me. Other than that, it goes on the fridge, where they can easily reach it.

I have Gracie and Annelie move their own clips so they can be 100% aware of where their clip is, and what they have lost/what they will lose if their behavior doesn't change.

Honestly, I think it is having something concrete to see and remind them of their behavior that works the most. My kids need visuals - time-outs and losing privileges did not mean much when they were just listening to my exasperated threats. And having the ability to redeem themselves makes the idea of being in trouble less scary because they can have more control over what they lose and when they can get it back.

As always, I'm a curious mama... what works for you in your home? And if nothing does... try giving this a try!



  1. This sounds like a great idea! It's always great to find something that works. We use marble jars in our house. Good deeds=marbles, bad= loss of marbles. When their jars are full, they get a trip to a museum or fun place, or a new toy. It really works for us!

  2. I love this idea! I'm going to have to co-opt it for the Peanut. I'm not sure how often we'll need to put it to use, as an only (for now) we don't have a lot of disciplining to do but having something that she has control over when we do need to discipline might make those times less emotionally charged.

  3. Krista - I love the idea of the marble jar!! Sounds great and so nice to have something that works!

    Tammy - Once there are two kids in the mix the fighting and toy stealing begins... Your time is coming soon!! But hopefully it will help with those emotionally charged moments! :)

  4. Sweet idea! Aren't kindergarten teachers totally awesome? Personally, I want you to make me a set made by you because IIIII love your illustrations :)

  5. Very cool. I'll have to try this one out. I'm tired of being the grumpy tyrant. :oP

  6. oh this is cleaver! We just use the "mom screams her head off and the kids just ignore me" method ... so far the results have been less than stellar.

  7. Hmmm. That method has got some good stuff to it!
    Pretty snazzy.....

  8. hmmm will have to give that a boys are after all just male versions of your girls ;)

    Oh Mandie - I hear you! same here! lol

  9. Fantastic idea! I don’t have kids…but I teach preschool! We have a similar system in which their stars go up and down depending on their behaviors. Good behaviors cause their stars to go up and negative behaviors cause them to go down. All of the stars start out in the middle at the beginning of the day. If a star goes up 3 times, that kid is a Superstar and gets to pick a prize. If a star goes down 3 times, she has time-out. The kiddos physically move their own stars so they are accountable, much like your clip system, which I LOVE. And if a child’s star goes down, but they redeem themselves, they are able to move their star back up. Much like your plan! And in my opinion, that kind of plan is the only one that truly teaches correct behaviors. If there’s no chance to redeem themselves, the kids would be too discouraged to change their behaviors.

  10. i love this idea! love the marble idea too. might even try both. marisa, you need to create a duplicatable set of these for your shop. :-)

  11. I love this!! I have a hard time finding things that will work with my 3yo. Lately it's been bribing her with gum (which is why she's napped for the past two days. glorious)

  12. This is awesome. Natalie just shared this with me and I am totally going to start this tomorrow!

  13. Thanks everyone! And YAY!! I'm so glad to know that some of you might benefit from this! Good luck!!


  14. I too love this idea, but food should never be used for rewards or punishments. It sets kids up for a lifetime of eating isues :(

  15. Anonymous, I can see how that could be the case depending on the situation, but when children are taught to eat healthfully and taught to spend more time outside playing for exercise benefits than in front of the TV, and aren't fed junk food and fast food and sweets all the time, I don't see a problem.

    There are always going to be drawbacks to something and you don't always know what that could be. Everything changes from family to family, child to child.

    With my kids, the thought of losing dress up play, or the ability to do art whenever they please is far more upsetting than not getting a cookie after dinner because they weren't behaving themselves. Not all kids are the same, not all reward charts will be the same. I was just showing what works for me.

  16. We have been doing marbles too. I even sent some paper circles (paper marbles) to school so Z's teacher could give him marbles there that he can trade in for real marbles when he gets home. Sometimes we get tired of marbles and my husband or I say we'll give marbles for something and then forget to give the marbles. Or we say they lost some and forget to take them. Maybe we should switch it up a bit and try something like this. Great idea!


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