Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Accountable Kids

I will be linking up to this week's Homeschool Hints with this post because it seems Accountable Kids is popular in homeschooling circles.

We recently decided to give the Accountable Kids Program a try in our house. I found out about this about 6 months ago and I kept putting off buying it because it seemed too complicated and too expensive to me. Right before Christmas, Josh and I had some gift money to spend and were at the end of our rope always getting onto the girls for the same things, so we decided to split the cost and use our Christmas money to buy it.

If you're not a regular reader, a little background: we are a homeschooling family. Our oldest child (Sierra) is 6 and the middle one (Sedona) is 3. The accountable kids program is marketed to be used with children ages 3-14.

First, a basic run down of the program. I know it's going to sound complicated, it sounded complicated to me too, but the accountable kids book is 200 pages long and lays out everything step by step with lots of suggestions for how to make it work better for your family. Also, we took the book's advice and did not implement every step of the program at once. Especially with having younger kids, I think this helped us out. We only did Step 1 for the first week, then added in a step each week after that.

The set up: Each child has a board with pegs on it. These pegs hold all of their cards. There are basic chore cards, extra chore cards, tickets, bonus bucks, best behavior cards, privilege passes and a special date card.

How The Program Works:

Step One: First, you assign each child basic chores. The chores are divided into morning, afternoon and evening chores (the cards are made so you can color code them). The book suggests starting out with basic things the child is already doing and that's what we did. For the morning, each girl is expected to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their hair and brush their teeth. For the afternoon, each one is expected to eat lunch, do their schoolwork, and have quiet time. For the evening, each one is expected to eat dinner, pick up their toys, change into their pjs, put their dirty clothes in the dirty clothes hamper and brush their teeth. In addition to these, Sierra (who's 6) also has to wipe down the bathroom sink in the morning, read in the afternoon, and wipe down the table in the evening. One of the keys to the program is the child becomes responsible for their own chores. The parent isn't supposed to remind the child to do things, that's what they have the cards on their peg board for. As they complete a chore, they move that card onto the "finished peg". When they are done with all of their morning chores (or afternoon, or evening), they come to us and ask for a ticket. Again, the parent isn't supposed to remind them, it's their job to ask for it. There is a peg on their board for hanging tickets. Tickets are used to buy privileges and it's suggested to use activities that the kids are currently getting for "free" that you want them to understand is a privilege, not a right. We have been talking about reworking our ticketed activities, but right now a ticket can be spent to watch TV, ride their scooters for 15 minutes, play outside for 20 minutes (this one won't be around in the summer, but when it's 15 degrees outside, going out is a major ordeal and just doesn't happen on a regular basis), hold Secora, or play a game alone with momma or daddy. You can post a list of these privileges if the kids have trouble remembering them. Children can also LOSE tickets for poor behavior. Around here, that's screaming in the house, throwing a fit when they're asked to do something, or being mean to anyone (including the dog). The first few days, you offer some prompts and reminders, but after that, they're on their own to make choices about earning, keeping and spending tickets. The children also earn Best Behavior Cards at this point. Best Behavior Cards are an intermittent give them out when the children display behaviors you like, but it has to be a surprise to them. You don't tell them, "if you do xyz, you get a best behavior card" and you don't give one out every time they do a certain thing. The idea is to somewhat randomly reward them so they display good behavior all the time (well, most of the time ;-) because they never know when that best behavior card is going to show up. They use these just like tickets.

Step Two: Once the kids are doing well with step one and have the hang of the program, it's time to add in Step Two. This is when the privilege pass and special date card are introduced. The privilege pass is used to stamp out a specific negative behavior. You explain your expectation to the child and they can earn a privilege pass for meeting those expectations. Right now, Sedona is working on going down for a nap without stalling or throwing any fits. Sierra is working on eating dinner in a polite manner without complaining about the food. If they do these things as expected, they get a privilege pass, which allows them a special privilege (for Sierra it's computer time, for Sedona is Wii time), or they can spend it like a regular ticket if they choose too. The special date card is to teach them long term rewards. For each day that they do ALL of their basic chores, they get a star on the special date card. After they collect 10 stars, they get a special one on one date with momma or daddy. The special date doesn't have to cost money, but so far we've done dessert at a local cafe for those.

Step Three: Once the children are comfortable with steps one and two, it's time to add in step three: extra chores and bonus bucks. For the extra chores, parents choose some chores and designate them as daily or weekly. The children choose if they want to do these chores or not. For Sierra, her daily extra chore is wiping the kitchen counters and her weekly extra chores are helping vacuum (cleaning out the roomba when it's full) and doing her and Sedona's laundry. For Sedona, her daily extra chore is sweeping the kitchen (we got a child sized broom and it's a small kitchen) and her weekly chores are cleaning her and Sierra's room and dusting. If the children do these extra chores AND they've done all of their basic chores for the day, they earn a bonus buck. The bonus bucks are traded in once a week. For older children, you might pay a certain amount of money for each bonus buck (and help the child learn about budgeting, saving and spending wisely). Since our girls are still pretty young, we're going with a basket system...we have some items they like in a basket (including some money) and they get to "shop" from the basket with their bonus bucks at the end of the week.

Step Four: The last step to add in is the family forum. This is time for everyone to sit down together and discuss problems, concerns or successes. Step Four is also when you enact "quiet time" (for EVERYONE in the family), but since Sedona is still take naps, we are just building quiet time into the afternoon basic chores right now.

How Accountable Kids Has Worked For Us:

Week 1: The start of the program was rough. When we told the girls about it, Sierra was very excited. The first morning she had a breakdown though because she had only earned one ticket and she chose to spend it riding her scooter because Sedona was spending HER'S to ride her scooter. When scooter time was over and Sierra couldn't watch TV, she was very upset. By the evening she had figured it out and was good to go though. Sedona also needed A LOT of reminders in the early days. She also spent her tickets as soon as she earned each one at first, so we couldn't use taking tickets as a discipline tactic with her. By the end of the week, they were catching on though. Sierra was doing all of her chores independently and was also prompting Sedona at times when she forgot.

Weeks 2 and 3: We added in step 2. Sierra started to choose to give up a ticket because she didn't like wiping down the table after dinner, but that stopped when we instituted the special date card and she realized Sedona was going to earn a date before she did. Sedona still needs prompting to do her chores. I'm not sure if this is strictly because of her age or because we don't have the right rewards for her. Because the girls are doing their chores, but not earning many best behavior cards and continually losing tickets for the same negative behaviors, we chose to change the rules on the special date card after they had each earned one date. Now they only earn a star if they do all of their basic chores AND they don't lose a ticket for the day.

Week 4: We added in step 3. The girls were very excited to earn bonus bucks at first, but turns out those extra chores weren't so fun when they needed to be done on a regular basis. They have not earned many bonus bucks yet, but we haven't done our first cash in. I suspect they will pick up the pace when it's more tangible for them. I think I will also take the advice offered in the book and leave the basket of goodies out where they can see what they're working towards. In the future (probably right when we're ready to switch over to just paying them for bonus bucks) I will also probably start putting some high ticket items in games they've asked for, etc... that require them to really work hard and save up the bucks. Sedona also started taking her tickets off her board and leaving them around the house (a key part of the program is having the boards accessible to the kids), so we've instituted the rule that if I see a ticket and it's not on someone's board, it's my ticket. Now that she's losing all those, she's not doing it as often.

My overall review:

I'm liking the program, but it will take us a little longer to really get it dialed in for our kids. I think this is partly because of their age. I think it has been much more effective for Sierra than Sedona, and I'm not sure how well Sedona would do with it if she didn't have an older sibling around to set an example. I think the program is just fine for 3 year olds, but perhaps it would go smoother if the oldest sibling in the house is 5 or 6. The packaged deal on the website is well worth the money. There are a ton of color coded chore cards that would take you a long time to produce on your own. The book is also much more involved and helpful than it appears to be from looking at the website. I was expecting a rinky dink work book, but it's well written and very helpful. For instance, the beginning of the book talks about age appropriate expectations and there are even a few little tasks to help you "test" if your child is in the pre-operational or operational developmental stage. From the descriptions, I would've guessed Sierra was in the operational stage, but her answers to the little tests REALLY surprised me, and she's really kind of right on the line, but definitely not fully in the operational stage yet. Knowing that helped me adjust my expectations and how we implemented the program.

Another thing I like is they give you suggestions for how to make the program fit your family. There aren't a lot of hard and fast rules, there are a lot of ideas, but only the bare bones of the program have "rules", the rest you fit to your lifestyle.

The program has definitely helped us teach the girls to take more responsibility for their own actions and think about their choices. We will keep using it and adjust things as necessary as the girls get older. Overall, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure: Accountable Kids has a program that allows bloggers to review the program after using it in their homes for 30 days and receive up to a 50% rebate on their purchase. We purchased the Basic Kit with an Additional Child Kit. We have used the program for 30 days and all opinions above are my own.


Joanie said...

Thanks for posting a review. I think we are in need of something like that for the boys. It's super frustrating being ignored or having to ask repeatedly to do something. Maybe if we start making them accountable for certain things, then they will step up. Seems so easy when you read's just having to implement it is what takes some time

Renee said...

Hi, do you still use this program? I am thinking of getting it and wondering how it holds up long term? Wondering if it will be great for awhile and then we'll fall off the bandwagon.

The Hills said...

We did indeed fall off the bandwagon! The main reason is because we don't really need it for behavior at this point. It would be nice for getting chores done, but I've been too lazy to keep it set-up for that since we don't follow a strict schedule and tend to do things more as they're needed instead of on certain days. I do still think it would be useful in some regards if I put in the effort to use it. You could always just get the book and see if you want to implement the whole system or just do parts of it on your own. It definitely takes a fair bit of effort on the parent's part, I got bad about sticking with it when our daily schedules got more hectic.


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