Taming the Toddler

Wow! First off I just have to say how happy I am with the response to my first post! It sounds like a lot of people are looking for ways to save money or get back on track financially. I got a ton of private messages with people asking me all sorts of questions and seeking advice. I will definitely revisit the money issue.

This week is about a behaviour chart I made and implemented for my 3-year-old son. This was a child who was an angelic baby, rarely cried, the 2’s were a breeze… then he turned 3 and things started to change drastically. We couldn’t get through basic daily tasks (getting dressed, eating, shoes on, etc.) without major whining or a meltdown. After a few months of nothing else working, my husband and I decided we needed something revolutionary to get him back on track to being the wonderful fun-loving kid we know he is.

I turned to the place where I go for all my needs these days, Pinterest! I did a search for “behavior charts” and began scouring pages until I found something that fit what I was looking for. What I finally decided on was this. Bear in mind that every child is different, and what works for us may not work for you.

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“BIG BOY” BEHAVIOR CHART

Now I can’t take credit for this chart in any way, shape, or form and the lady who came up with it is brilliant, but I will tell you simply how it works and how it has helped our “spirited” child function a bit more calm and reasonable.

Here is a simple breakdown of how the behavior chart works:

1. Your child has 6 coins to start the day (created with your childs input on characters to make it extra fun).

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CHARACTERS CHOSEN BY MY SON – GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

2. When they misbehave, you take a coin. Example: Refusing to get dressed or put shoes on.

3. When they do something good they can earn a coin back. Example: Put their dishes away without being told.

4. If at the end of the day they have all 6 coins they earn a sticker. 10 stickers, ie. 10 days of good behaviour = a treat (determined by your child). We keep the treats under $10, and it has included things like going out for frozen yogurt with the family, a toy of choice from the dollar store, a small Lego set, etc.

5. If at the end of the day they have no coins left, they must face a consequence. In our house this means a day without Lego. For some people a day without TV or screens would be a more effective consequence.

We end the day at the chart -if he has gained a sticker we praise him for his great day and then we count down how many days left until we can earn the next treat. If he doesn’t earn a sticker for the day, we go over some of the reasons why he lost some coins and try to think of better ways he could have dealt with the situations.

Since implementing this chart over a month ago things have been progressively getting easier. Our son is starting to really get it and he truly wants to exhibit good behavior to get the precious sticker at the end of the day.

My favorite part about the chart is how it helps us be better parents. Before it was so easy to use empty threats like “get dressed or _____” and usually we would never really follow through. Now we can remain calm and remind him that if he doesn’t do what he needs to, he will lose a coin. Sometimes he will lose multiple coins in one elevated instance (although this is becoming more and more rare as we go on), but I find it so nice to have a go-to instead of spouting out some crazy-ass consequence in the heat of the moment (I may or may not have threatened to throw all his toys in the garbage once!)

When we are out of the house and we have a behaviour problem I just simply remind him that he will lose a coin if he continues. When we get home I take away or reward coins based on things that happened while we are out.

When my husband gets home from work in the evening, he can look at the chart to see how many coins are on the chart and it gets a dialogue going instantly and we can all talk about our day and what went on. The chart is meant to be based on positive-reinforcement not discipline, which I love.

I won’t say things are perfect, he is still a high-energy 3-year-old boy, but we sure have noticed a change in his behaviour for the better. If you are having problems, why not give something like this a try -what have you got to lose?

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HAPPY CAMPER NEXT TO HIS NEW “BIG BOY CHART”

Tips:

-Let your child have all the imput on choosing the coins and let them decorate the chart with stickers and pictures, make it fun!

-Keep it positive, we want to build up our children to begin making good decisions on their own.

-The reward doesn’t have to be expensive, it could even be something free like a family trip to a neat park or a nature house -just something that your child would like, that is a bit out of the norm.

-You may feel silly at first talking to your child about the coins in public, but who cares! If anyone asks, refer them to the original website for reference 🙂

-Read the original website, there is a ton of details that I am leaving out, but I really just wanted to simplify to show how easy it is.

-Use velcro. Our chart is velcroed to the door (makes it easy to rip off to take to a sleepover at grandmas), the bag of stickers is velcroed on, and the coins are velcroed on. There is something about the audible rip of the coin off the chart that really impacts our child and makes him whip into gear pretty quickly!

Supplies List:
Big poster board, or large piece of cardboard
Printer & Paper (for the coins, and any other decorations your child may want)
Markers
Cardboard to make coins
Packing tape to cover coins (Or a laminator)
Scissors
Velcro
Stickers for rewarding

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave any tips you have for dealing with toddlers and let me know if you try this chart -I would love to hear how it works for someone else 🙂

-Karley

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10 Budgeting, Saving & Spending Tips

First thing is first: I am NOT an expert on anything, just a practical person who has a bit of experience in living life. I am going to share with you 10 of the best ideas I have been trying to implement in my life that help to ease the financial woes.

We are a young family of four and we want more than anything to get out of the renting cycle and buy our own house (I have this vision of me having a farm with chickens for our own eggs, a goat that I milk and make cheese which I sell for a bit of side money, the kids running naked through the fields…. this will more realistically be a townhouse in the city with a postage stamp for a yard). I have been feeling extra stressed about this because the boy starts kindergarten in a year and a half and I want us to be settled by then so he isn’t moving schools.

1. KNOW WHAT YOU OWE: It is impossible to save efficiently, pay down debt, or move on unless you know how much the looming sum is. Figure out exactly what you owe on all debts and add them up -there, that is the number you can work down from. I made a simple spreadsheet in Excel (Debt Spreadsheet Example) which tells me each debt, how much I owe, what the interest is & what I pay monthly). I update the spreadsheet once a month to see the progress even one month can make. USUALLY the big total number goes down, but almost always around the holidays we end up incurring a bit of debt (which I am trying to eliminate -the holidays are about family, not increasing your debt load)!

2. GET RID OF THE SMALL DEBTS WITH BIG INTEREST: Somehow my husband and I ended up with several small debts, some with crazy high interest, some with 0% for 36 months. These were for purchases we didn’t have cash for such as TV, laptop and engagement ring, plus I had racked up a small load on a department store card. I know they always say to pay down the debt with the highest interest first, but for me it was so much more rewarding to get rid of the tiny things fist, and then focus on the bigger amounts (credit cards, line of credit, loans). Another benefit about getting rid of these types of things first is that they look especially bad to creditors. The minimum payment for these debts is usually small (they want you to drag it out and pay as much interest as possible) so find a reasonable amount you can pay towards it and get rid of it!

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3. INVISIBLE SAVINGS: The way we have managed to save a few thousand dollars in less than a year is through what I call “Invisible Savings”. This means we save money off a paycheque before we ever see it. We have an account set up with ING Direct which is a free online savings account that you can easily transfer your money between. We set up a TFSA (tax-free savings account) that has no fees and $50 from my husbands bi-weekly paycheque is automatically deposited into savings without any thought. It doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice because it is almost like the money never really existed. My husband works a job that provides a lot more hours and overtime in the nicer weather. Another way that we save “invisibly” is by saving everything off his cheque over a certain amount. We picked a number that was enough for us to be comfortable on and we automatically save everything over and above that. One last way to save is by setting up a savings program through your chequing account. Everytime we perform a transaction with our debit card $0.50 is transferred to our savings, this may not seem like a lot but it adds up! Everytime it reaches $50, I transfer it to our TFSA. Doing this is so easy and it also helps you think twice before making a purchase -you can choose to have more taken out as well, we may upgrade to $1 per transaction soon!

4. BUDGET: This one seems obvious, that is because it is! I am not perfect at this and I give into temptations for sure, but I have found the best thing to do is to go to the grocery store with cash in hand. I try to get groceries once a week, and go to the store with $80-$100. This usually covers the necessary food for the week, but I will occassionally need more if I am buying anything household (laundry soap, toilet paper, etc.). Set a monthly budget for these things as well. If you go shopping with just cash, you can’t spend what you don’t have! I have been using a really handy app for my phone called Mint that has all my debt inputed, allows me to set a budget for every expense throughout the month and keep track of where I am spending too much.

5. SWAP & SAVE: This is something I just started at the beginning of the year. I am trying to be more green and environmentally aware. This includes selling and buying used items. I am a part of a facebook group that is a local moms swap & shop. I decided I will only buy things when I have sold things of my own to get the money. I keep a “swap & shop” jar where my money goes from selling clothes, toys, household items. This is the only money I will use to purchase new things. Doing it like this almost feels like free money and it is two birds with one stone. You de-clutter AND get cash which you get to use for things you really need (ie. selling my 3 year olds too-small clothing for new baby items for my 2 month old!) This could include money from consignment or yard sales as well.

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6. COMMUNICATON: If you are in a relationship this is key! If you are anything like us, one person predominantly deals with the household finances. In our family that person is me. It naturally fell onto my lap pretty early on because I am organized (and maybe a bit of a control freak); however, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Being the person who deals with the money also means the stress of it usually falls on you. For years my husband had no idea where we were really at financially, so it was easy for him to drop a few bucks here and there for a coffee or a burger. Once I confronted him with the total debt and started to throw some facts at him (like how much interest we pay in just one month) he realized how important it was to make better decisions about spending. I still deal with the money and the bills but I try to give him an update about once a week or so to let him know how things are going or if we have to penny-pinch a bit till the next payday. This also takes 100% of the money stress off me and puts us in the same boat.

7. HANDY DANDY NOTEBOOK: Last year I kept a word file with each bill we had to pay and the dates etc. It was great except sometimes I just plain forgot to look at it, or I goofed up and didn’t add something. This year I went back to my old tried and true method. I keep a small pocket planner and clip on a pencil and a highlighter. I write in all the bills and income we are expecting on the appropriate date in pencil. I highlight it when it has been paid or money has come in. I find this method easier than a document and more accessible as I can take it with me when we are away from the computer to make it easy to know which bills are coming up. I wrote in all the bills and the amount (or guesstimate) for the entire year and then I correct the amounts if they change. It is a really easy way to look back and see what you paid in previous months (ie. comparing hydro bills).

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8. THINK TWICE: This one is pretty straightforward. Think twice before you buy. I started asking these questions. Do I need it? It is on the list? Could I get it second-hand? Could it wait? Enough with the impulse buying and start re-thinking your purchases. Sometimes our “wants” get a little bit confused with the things we actually need to live and survive (which is really quite little).

9. REUSE & REPURPOSE: Instead of running out to buy something, see if you can come up with something to use that you already own. A recent example of this in my own life happened the other day when I needed to organize my 3-year-old’s crayons, pencils & markers that were all over the place. I was about to run to the dollar store, which would have inevitably ended up in more than $1 being spent, to grab an organizer. Then I stopped to think if there was anything around the house I could use instead. I had a large can that was clean and just sitting in the recylcing bin. I grabbed it and got my son to decorate it with stickers -voila, a new holder! Ideas like this are great for saving money and the environment.

10. DON’T FORGET THE FUN: As important as it is to get your financial situation in check -don’t forget to have fun! If you try to cut out everything and just save, save, save you will break down, trust me! Set aside some money in your budget for fun. This could be something as simple as going for frozen yogurt with the family, ordering a pizza once a month, renting a movie. Find an amount that works for you and make the most of it. Even $10/month could be enough to do something that feels like a bit of a splurge. We try to do something fun with the whole family every Sunday, but before I spend a dime I try to think of any free options or community activities going on.

Thanks for reading, hope you learned something new. Feel free to comment and add your best ideas for saving a few bucks!

-Karley