A story of a mom getting her child to put clothes in the laundry.

This parent shared their story of how she applied the observational model on her teenage daughter.

One of the greatest concerns of parents with teenage children is that "STAR CHARTS" just wont work for older children.

When you read this story, you can see how this model worked so well, and even created a deeper bond between mother and daughter.

The parent was complaining that her daughter wasn't packing away dirty clothes in the laundry basket. But that soon changed after she implemented the Observational method... and she didn't even tell her teen what she was doing!

This is a story given to me by a mother of a teenage daughter who used the Observation chart without telling her daughter what it was intended for:

Charting Change

Last year I took part in a Star Chart Workshop presented by Robin Booth. I was intrigued to see if there had been any new advances within this age-old method of behavioural modification.

I sometimes joke by saying that I could have saved myself a lot of work - instead of studying Educational Psychology I should have invested in a sticker company! Somehow, children simply seem to respond to stickers.

This being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the workshop. Robin has skillfully expanded on the Star Chart method by including many varied and fun-filled activities. The Star Chart has advanced from a mere Observation Chart to “gamification”, a fantastic concept.

Armed with the latest on Star Charts I set off to see how I could implement this new methodology. As with all therapies, supplements and suggestions, I only prescribe something to a patient once I have tried and tested myself.

And so, this particular ‘test’ fell to my 13-year-old daughter, Zoë.

The success of the Star Chart has already been proven, but does it remain true for a teenage child? I decided to take the simplest of charts (the Observation Chart) and add a little zest to it.

The Observation Chart triggered something in me and I was reminded of the work of Quantum Physics and the Observer Effect. In science the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. In my test, the phenomenon mentioned above, was a beautiful, temperamental, typical yet unique teenager.

The possible effect of introducing a STAR CHART (“how lame!” I could see the rolling of Zoë’s eyes at the mere suggestion of the chart) could have devastating effects on an already fragile self-esteem (teenage by-product).

The series of emotions we have to navigate ranges from being totally embarrassed to anger, fear, loving acceptance and anything in-between. My status, as a mother, can go from hero to zero in less than a second. Too many possible variables for any sound experimentation! Desperate, I knew I had to add an element of fun to spice up the mix, so I added some intrigue and mystery.

Observation Charts do not have a set reward like most other Star Charts do. The Observation Chart basically only charts a certain behaviour (that observed by the parent/therapist). You observe and plot the behaviour, it’s as simple as that.

The observation I charted: dirty clothes ended up in the wash basket that night.

Action: a bright red poster, comprising squares, above the wash basket. I did not explain, instruct or comment. I said nothing (a test of pure willpower on my side!)

And so, when Zoë noticed the poster and asked about it I said nothing, just smiled, and said: “we will see.” I think she caught on to my ‘test’ pretty quickly and being a teenager the clothes were dropped next to the basket. I said, and did, nothing. No sticker.

The next evening she dropped half of her clothes in the wash basket, so half a sticker appeared. Now it was game on, I knew I had her hook, line and sinker. In a sense I do think this was an accidental reward. She did not plan to get the sticker.

The mysterious part of the ‘test’ was that we did not converse, at no point was anything explained to Zoë. All I ever did was smile each and every time she asked me about the chart.

The effect of only observing and acknowledging what you observe was fascinating to me. The acknowledgement from my side was that I watched Zoë do something that was in line with what I had previously asked her to do. Only this time, I did not need to have a discussion with her, I did not have to ask, plead, beg or threaten. Clothes in the wash basket are equal to a sticker on the chart. Nothing more.

Zoë played along, enjoying the fact that I noticed when she did something correctly. That was enough! On a few given evenings Zoë even pasted the sticker herself.

As the mother of a teenage child I did not think that the need to obtain a sticker would still be there, but it was. Conclusion: after three consecutive evenings, Zoë’s clothes routinely ended up in the wash basket.

I realized that in reality this ‘test’ was never about the reward of a sticker, more importantly it was about being noticed. Again, I found myself reminded of the fact that we all like to be noticed and acknowledged. The Observation Chart was just another technique but it resulted in bit of fun and the guarantee of a smile!

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