When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Charts

Anyone out there have a spirited child? The one who questions authority, will “NEVER” do _____, who argues with any and all ideas, even if it’s to go get ice cream because it’s not the place they want to go? (And you know that no matter where you pick, they will have somewhere else in mind.)

Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I have one of those, too. And for every second of absolute perfection we’ve had from this one, we’ve had one and half times more backlash.

But listen closely. I want to help you, and I hope that I can.

We went back and forth for almost a year – “he’s just in a phase” “he’ll grow out of this” and my favorite, because really, us stay-at-home parents get the brunt of it, “it’s really not that bad, is it?” But I couldn’t handle it anymore. I broke one day. I cried, I yelled, and I decided whether or not his dad agreed with me, something needed to change.

I started doing some research into kids with stronger personalities. Anxiety runs in my family, and as it turns out, sometimes kids with these strong personalities are actually very anxious about not feeling like they have control.

(Note 1: Give control where you feel comfortable)

Additionally, as it turns out, a lot of these stronger, stubborn traits are actually great for them as they get older. And having kids who know what they want really isn’t a terrible thing either.

(Note 2: Work WITH the trait, not against it)

I found a lot of repetitive information, so I decided to give the advice a try in a way that worked for our family. Our little dude is only 4 1/2 years old, so he can’t read, and his listening/comprehension only lasts for a few minutes at a time, so we needed to work something out that was short, to the point, and understandable for everyone.


We’ve had mad success with these. You’ll have to play around a little bit with them to find one that works for you, but overall, they are easy to follow and can be made with only a minor investment.

I kept going back to what I read about kids wanting to feel like they have control and say in their day. After some Pinterest searching, I found directions and an awesome printable at And Next Comes L, ordered my stuff from Amazon, and waited.

It was a breeze to put together, and he LOVES it. We’re able to change things up, he’s able to pick and choose the things he wants to do, and on the days I know we absolutely have stuff to do, I’ll put the corresponding slip in before he’s awake and he knows those can’t be touched.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Charts | Twin Cities Moms Blog

The next chart I printed was a Chore Chart from I Should Be Mopping the Floor. This works well with the calendar (more on that in a bit), but also gives your kid a visual of their progress. The chart is printable – just give it a click!

Easy chores for younger kids are things like bringing their dishes to the sink, putting shoes and backpacks away, vacuuming (well, within reason), helping unload the dishwasher, putting their clothes away, and the like. You know your kiddo and what they’re capable of handling at their age.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Charts | Twin Cities Moms Blog

Monthly Calendar

Somewhere in all the research, I read that birth order plays quite a bit into personality. For example, overall, first-borns are more apt to be list-makers and note-takers because once the other kids come along, the oldest sees their parent(s) struggling to keep it together.

Okay – I’m making part of that up, but it would make sense, right? (Ha!) And when I look around at my friends and family, you can almost always point out who is an “oldest child” because of their obsessive notes and calendars. So while I didn’t find out truly why that is, it makes sense in our house.

The monthly calendar with stickers helps to keep us all on track, but also gives our guy a visual of what’s coming. We talk about the month as I work with him on the calendar (doctor appointments, soccer, a trip to Wisconsin, whatever it is). Then it goes on the fridge.

Additionally, we use this to keep track of the Chore Chart. We either “X” the day, put a smiley face, or a sticker on the days that were successes. Whatever your family decides as a goal, go for it. We started at five “good” days in a row, then went to 14, and are now up to a month. For every completion, he gets to pick something – a Matchbox car, ice cream cone, movie night with mom and dad, etc. The longer we go, the bigger the reward. BUT – if there’s a “bad” day and no sticker, then it all starts again.

You can get a monthly calendar from anywhere. Target carries some great dry erase ones, or you can print them off – whatever floats your boat!

A Great Read

This all goes without saying that having kids is really hard. We definitely have our rough moments and days still. (Like…, really tough) But they’re infrequent and can usually be “blamed” on something – being tired, hungry, anxious about something new, etc. There are no longer the outbursts for no reason, and the communication on both ends has improved immensely.

If you’re a reader like I am, another place for great information is this book : Skills Training for Struggling Kids: Promoting Your Child’s Behavioral, Emotional, Academic, and Social Development. It really digs into the psychology of why kids are the way they are, areas they struggle with, and gives you exercises and ways to practice working with them. It’s a book I think almost all parents should read!

I hope some of these tips work for you. I know firsthand how tough these strong-willed children we love so much can be, and I’d love to hear back if you do give them a try! And as always, mama, remember – you are not alone in this!

One Response to When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Charts

  1. Beth October 18, 2016 at 6:38 AM #

    I laughed so hard at the bit about not even getting them to go for ice cream because it isn’t what they want to do! THAT IS MY SON. I’ve said since he became mobile at 6m that anything he does has to be on *his* terms. He has his own agenda and it is very tough to go against it. That actually worked very much in our favor when it came to potty training (he declared himself done with diapers and there was never a single accident day or night)….but that’s about it. He’s almost 5 and we have tried all manner of visuals like charts and calendars, but he is just not motivated by stickers or prizes. I hope that I’ll figure out his “currency” soon and (because I’m an oldest child and can’t live without my calendar and lists!! Haha!) can help him direct that self-motivation that he clearly has!

Leave a Reply