Category Archives: Single Parenting

Behavior Chart

Pennies and Problems


It’s been a long time since we’ve had to use a reward chart for “Em;” I think the last one was while she was potty training. When we did the rewards back then, she received a sticker on her chart for each successful trip to the bathroom, and when she had that mastered, she earned a sticker for each day that was accident-free. I don’t remember what the reward was for filling a chart with stickers, but it was probably something like “pick any toy from the $1 section at Target” or something like that. There was no consequence for not using the toilet, other than not receiving a sticker for that attempt/day.

However, Em is much older and consequences are now appropriate. We’ve struggled with a few behavior quirks in the past, usually related to Em’s return from her dad’s house in the summer which resolved themselves within a couple of weeks. This year these quirks have quickly evolved into full-blown behavior problems. It seemed the traditional removal of a prized possession or privilege wasn’t cutting it. I was venting my frustrations with a friend of mine and she told me about a system she’s currently using with her son who is a couple of years older than Em. I modified it a bit and this is what I ended up with:

In order to teach Em that every poor choice has a negative consequence, she loses more points than she would have gained if she’d done the right thing. Em and I each have a jar with pennies inside, every point being worth one penny. We mark off points as they happen so there is an immediate consequence, though it seems small at that exact moment. At the end of the day we total everything up; if her grand total is in the positive, we transfer the earned amount of pennies from my jar to hers. If she’s in the negative, she must give back that many pennies.

One of the major problem we were having was lying. No matter how many times I encouraged her to tell the truth to lessen the amount of consequence, the lies would just be piled one on top of another. She’s quickly learning the value of telling the truth. If, for example, she does not complete a task I asked her to do and she lies about it, she’ll end up losing 4 points, 2 for not completing the task and 2 for the lie. If she continues to lie about the task she didn’t complete, she loses another 2 points for each lie. We ran into this scenario last week and I reminded her that she’d lose fewer points if she just told the truth right away: rather than lose 4 or 6 points, she’d only lose 2 and potentially be in the positive by the end of the day if she did everything else correctly. Once Em saw the math, she understood that even if she does something wrong, telling the truth can help keep her final total in the positive.

Last week was our first week with the chart and while I wish she’d earned more pennies, at least she ended the week with some pennies in her jar. One bad day led to a serious deficit and a potential for around 30 points per week ended up with a final grand total of 9.

After I created the chart, Em and I worked together on the rewards she could earn with her pennies and came up with some ways for us to spend extra special time together with various values. The reward redemption amount starts at 50 pennies and increases in value depending on how “big” something is to Em. 50 seemed like a steep amount to start with for a “smaller” prize and I almost wavered a bit last week when I realized that it will take her at least a week and a half of “perfect” behavior to earn something, but considering the struggle we went through week 1 of this new system, I think 50 is a good number for her; it’ll help her to set a goal and see that her hard work is paying off.

Here’s hoping to a better week than last and a heavier penny jar in Em’s hands.

And then I cried

Tonight I attended the wedding reception of two very wonderful people. After the initial thought of, “oh great, now what am I going to do?,” I found myself sitting among friends at a table far away from the dance floor. The evening went very well, full of wine, beer, and food truck hamburgers. Toward the end of the evening, I found myself with one of my good friends “Tim.” Though he’s close to my parents’ age, Tim is very special to me, and I look up to him and cherish everything he says to me. After some light wine-filled conversation, Tim asked me a question that was loaded with serious.

“When are you going to stop putting your life on hold for others?”

After I tried to deny it, Tim asked me a different question.

“What are your goals for you? Marriage? More children?”

I tried to explain that my life is very busy, and I know that life is easier for me than for other single parents. I’m fairly certain that I’m done having children of my own, given that I’m not in a relationship right now, and having a child after I’m married again would be a difficult change for Em. I feel very blessed to have my family and my church family around whenever I need them. And I have many people in my life who love me.

“Yes, we all love you very much. But you don’t get to go home with us, do you?”

And then I cried.

Tim is right. I can surround myself with lots of love from family and friends, but at the end of the day, in the quiet of the night, it’s very lonely.

It has been a very lonely period. With no dating prospects in my line of sight, it seems a very good likelihood that I will not be in a serious relationship or marriage for another seven years.

There was an article published in the Huffington Post lately, a “journal entry” would be a more accurate description, that a woman wrote explaining why she did not need a man. Having been married before and now divorced with children, the woman explained how she had so many family and friends surrounding her, she didn’t need a man at home to make her feel loved.

I agree with her to an extent. But it is very lonely to not have somebody to talk to, to cry to, to cuddle up with, to love, to cherish.

Human beings need companionship. Extended periods of solitude can be very, very trying.

Tonight I’m left wondering: is Tim right? Am I putting my life on hold so that I can help others have a life? Is my gift of giving aid to others causing my life to stop?

Have I stopped walking along the path that has been laid before me? Or am I just taking a very long detour? Am I behaving like an insolent child, sitting down in the middle of the road, refusing to continue until someone pays attention to me and gives in to my demands?

Have I stopped living my life for me?

And I’m left wondering a question that I thought earlier in the evening: how did I get here, and where did my life go?

Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman

Glenn Grothman – Don’t stop paying attention to this man

I’ve been following the story of Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman and his Senate Bill 507 past the writing of my original article. Wednesday, I listened to an interesting radio interview between Grothman and Alan Colmes (from Colmes’ Friday radio show). In it, Grothman says some pretty revealing and disparaging things about his feelings towards the intentions of single mothers (please take the time to listen if you can, but be forewarned the audio is about 13 minutes long). However, what really caught my attention was the revelation about where Grothman has been pulling his statistics from.

In the interview with Colmes, Grothman revealed that the basis for his claim that non-marital parenthood is a contributing risk factor to child abuse and neglect comes from the fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent my entire Wednesday reading the study. It’s a total of 455 pages, and so I tried to concentrate on the study’s executive summary and the parts of the study Grothman was pulling from.

Here are some of my conclusions from reading the entirety of the executive summary and all of sections 4 and 5 (including subsections).

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