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Star charts: Bribery and Manipulation, or a great tool? The Observation Model

Written by Robin Booth

Star charts: Are they just another form of Bribery and Manipulation?

• We used 'star charts' in our family to successfully get Cailin (age 5) to sleep in her own bed, through the night.
• to be polite and kind (she resisted me as a step parent at fist)
• to get her to swim in the ocean with waves (age 4)
• to get her to do her 30 minutes of extra homework every day (age 7) for more than 4 months

But we found the standard star chart that everyone knows and has used (place a star for every time they do something you want them to so) is very limiting and didn't help in those situations where Cailin was losing motivation and interest.

Also, we ran the risk of the star chart process becoming just another form of bribing her. So we found ways to get around that and make the charts work for us, for Cailin and the long term benefit.

I've got over 4 unique and distinctive models (and their variations).

  1. The Observation model
  2. The goal model
  3. The Perseverance model
  4. The Consistency model

The first is the OBSERVATION MODEL. In this chart there is no goal. It is just an 'objective' recordal of what is happening.

Rene expressed a wish for Cailin to sleep through the night on her own, in her own bed, without calling out in the middle of the night for us to come to her. So we started recording this process. So for every time she called out in the night asking for someone to come to her, we put a sticker dot. As you can see, sometimes she called as many as 7 times, and each time would be "Don't leave me" (she was 4 at this time).

We did not say that her calling out was bad, wrong or unacceptable. We just recorded the numbers. Each time she slept through (which was not often in that first chart) she could put an animal sticker.


Cailin chart 1

Of course on some level she got that we were wanting her to sleep through but we only started accelerating this process a bit later on.

As you can see in the picture holding the other chart, she got to a point where nearly every night was a sticker.

cailin chart 2 low

Now there were some curve balls, like when she was sick could she call out?, or if she was cold because the blankets had fallen off could she call etc, but I will deal with those in the workshop session.

But the value of the observational method is that it taps into an internal drive opposed to an external gift/toy. We found that with Cailin being able to see the patterns and the process, she was more able to take responsibility and manage the process. We also used some coaching tools (which I will share in the session) on how we supported her in making this work for her and not feeling we were abandoning her.

But for me the real measure of success was not so much as Rene and I having achieved our goal of sleeping through the night, but of Cailin feeling so empowered and positive about what SHE had achieved.


Robin-Booth-improve your kids behaviour with new newly invented star charts




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