Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Positive Ghost

Do you ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed as a parent?

I totally do and usually spend the morning on those days being nitpicky, overly critical, and just feeling annoyed.

Do you notice that on these sort of days your kids act extra ornery and tend to find the most annoying behaviors possible and then do them nonstop?  

Today was totally one of those days for us... so instead of sending myself to time out for the morning (though that would've been heavenly), I grabbed a piece of paper and made us a little ghost sticker chart. 

I am a big fan of sticker charts and positive reinforcement... though typically it is not just for my kids, it is for ME too! 

This positive ghost changed our morning from a power struggly negativefest (those are totally words ;)) to a happy morning focused on positive behaviors.


1. I picked the most annoying 1-2 kid behaviors that were bugging me and causing me to be extra annoyed.

2. I decided what I wanted my kids to be doing instead (replacement behavior). (Make sure it is something they can do or can learn to do.)

3. I printed out my ghost template (feel free to make your own, but I thought this one was fun. Image is from here)

4. I wrote out my one goal on top of my ghost page making it clear and using positive language
(Instead of writing, "don't yell," I said "talk quietly," instead of writing "no grabbing," I wrote, "share toys with sister")... and then I demonstrated/modeled what that goal looked like to my son.

5. I worked with my son to create a contract and choose something to work for. He loves the iPad... so it is the most reinforcing thing I have to work with. We worked together to decide that he could earn 10 minutes of iPad time if he earned 10 stickers. If you dislike tangible reinforcers, then come up with an activity reinforcer or just use praise and give extra positive attention. Usually the sticker and/or the intermittent praise is enough at our house on most days... days like today needed a more intense intervention.

6. We wrote his contract at the bottom of the sheet.

7. Then we started playing and doing the rest of our morning routine and I started praising him when he demonstrated the positive behavior we'd discussed. Every once in awhile I would say things like, "Wow! I am so impressed with how well you shared ________ with your friend/sister" and I would let him put a sticker on his chart. I think it is important to keep praise specific, not just saying "good job"... but specifically explaining what was good about the behavior.

I praised a lot and made sure that he earned those stickers quickly and got a lot of positive attention for his good behavior.

Not only did his behavior change dramatically, but my mood changed because I was focused less on being nitpicky and negative... and instead I started looking for all of the positive things he was doing.

Keeping it real

This is hard and requires that I am consistent all day long. If I say things like, "I'm going to take away a sticker the next time you take that toy from your sister," the positivism goes out the window... and at least with my son, he's all of a sudden getting negative attention for a behavior (which is just as cool to him as positive attention sometimes), so I've lost... and just have to try again.

If you don't follow through and stay consistent (like actually give the 10 minutes of iPad time right when the last sticker is earner), the reward system loses it's value and behaviors may return and you are back to square one.

I definitely don't use this strategy every day, but on days when I am a grump and I need extra motivation to look for the good and encourage positive behaviors, this little ghost is a pretty awesome friend to have. It changes based on the seasons. Last week we made a pumpkin.

How do you encourage positive behaviors in your kids or help yourself be less critical as a parent?

PS- Have you checked out our Best of October link up yet? Make sure to stop by and share your favorite post from this month.


  1. I love this idea but do not own much technology. I do have a game on my phone called kid mode that he loves to play. it sends u an email each week and tells you how much time your child has played and u can put in more than one child. this also breaks down what developmental areas your child is using and improving in. I will start doing more of this in my home it might take some of his negative behavior down a notch.

  2. I think this is a wonderful idea. I am a big believer in behavioral charts. I think these kind of charts also work wonders with difficult situations like kids having accidents. Great idea!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! Please know that if it isn't kind or adding to the conversation, it won't be shared. I moderate each comment, so you won't see your comment show up immediately when you post. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog.