Discipline Tools

Having highly structured methods—such as charts, strikes and tickets—helps to establish a framework for corrective discipline delivery. Here are several of my most popular discipline tools:

Charts are broken into daily or weekly for kids aged four to seven. Up to the eighth birthday, parents should begin with six-block daily charts. A single chart can be used for a week. Also, children can work their way up through different chart levels as their behavior progresses. Charts also help parents learn to be consistent in enforcing rules and expectations. Charts are not recommended for children under age four.

A child should have a margin of error. Remember, nothing discourages a child faster than a goal that seems unattainable—and not doing a Target Misbehavior (that by its very presence on the sheet is something a child does with great frequency!) would seem impossible. I recommend you start with a list of Target Misbehaviors. Keep the list shorter for younger children. For example, for a four-year-old, that list should have no more than three items. Parents should ignore—as much as they can—other misbehaviors unless the wrongdoing in question is really bad.

Daily Charts (Kids ages 4-7)

Here’s an example of Charts using Susie, a fictitious four-year-old. Susie’s Targeted Misbehaviors are:

  • Yelling at Mom/Dad.
  • Refusing to do what Mom/Dad tell you to do.
  • Chasing the dog around the house.

Susie’s six-block daily chart covers seven days, starting with Monday and going through Sunday. For each day, Susie has a margin of error of three, meaning she can do a Target Misbehavior three times before she starts incurring consequences on any given day. The three other blocks are privileges Susie will lose if Target Misbehaviors continue for that day.

Here’s how it works:

Parent identifies the misbehavior, i.e. “Yelling at us is on your list, so you’re losing a block.”
Parent then walks calmly to the fridge and crosses off the highest block for that day (if it’s the first one, it will be block number 6).
Once Susie loses her margin of error (three blocks), the next block (number 3) lost means she will be forbidden from going outside to play for the rest of the day. She can still have friends over or watch TV, but no outside play. If she loses another block (number 2), she loses TV and friend time for the rest of the day. The final block lost (number 1), means Susie is confined to her room for the rest of the day only coming out to use the bathroom, eat dinner with the family, do chores or leave the house with the family. Her bedtime is moved up at least an hour earlier. Remember, her room should be stripped of play value also.

In charts, privileges are lost in such that the first privilege lost is the one that gives Susie the most freedom (outside playtime). After that, subsequent privileges further restrict her movements until she ends up in her room with an earlier bedtime. (Note: Don’t worry if the child doesn’t go to sleep earlier, the purpose it that she’s in bed, lights out, earlier. She’ll likely bounce around in her room for a bit, but as long as the lights stay off and the noise level is tolerable, e.g. no screaming, throwing things, etc., then don’t sweat the actual sleep time.)

After the end of the first seven-day period, that Sunday night after Susie is in bed, her parents take down the old chart and put up a new one with fresh blocks so that, come Monday morning, they are ready for any misbehaviors.

Most kids master the six block Daily Chart in two to three weeks, which means they lose no more than three or four privileges over a seven-day period. In other words, the margin of error is generally enough to keep the child on the straight and narrow.

The beauty of Charts is that you can graduate the child to “harder” charts. After the six-block Daily Chart is mastered, move to a five-block Daily Chart, which looks like the six-block one, except there are only two “free” blocks. Or you can add another Target Misbehavior and keep the six-block Daily Chart. By upping the ante in one of these two ways, you ensure steady but gentle pressure is kept on your child to improve her self control.

After the five block Daily Chart is mastered—remember, this will take a few weeks—then move to a four block Daily Chart, which would have one “free” block. When Susie’s ready for a three-block Daily Chart, combine the “outside/friends/TV” into the number two block, keep the number one block the same, and give her the number three block as her free one. You always want to keep at least one block for a margin of error.

Because you’re targeting a child with High Misbehaviors, you’ll need 6 to 12 weeks to help her move from a six-block Daily Chart to a three-block Daily Chart. But keep on, be patient, stay the course, and never give up! She will get there if you keep to the program. Keep in mind that her behavior didn’t become this bad overnight—it likely gradually got worse and worse over weeks. So, too, is her rehabilitation.

Once she’s mastered the three-block Daily Chart, you have several options.

Stop the program because all Target Misbehaviors have been basically solved and Susie has learned good self control.
Up the ante by adding a misbehavior—one at a time at this stage—to the Target Misbehaviors.
Graduate your child to Weekly Charts, which is only advisable if your child has mastered the three-block Daily Chart and is age 6 or older. However, if you don’t have any specific behaviors to target, just end the program.

Get The Daily Chart

Weekly Charts (Ages 8-12)

Weekly Charts are for kids who are between the ages of 8 and 12. A 12-block chart is appropriate for the start, with at least 8 blocks free. No child should start the Weekly Chart program with less than 10 blocks.

Weekly Charts work the same way as Daily Charts except the child keeps the chart for a seven-day period and when the child reaches the block with the first privilege to lose, he loses that privilege for the rest of the week. However, please know your child. If he or she is one that you highly suspect will blow through the free blocks on day one, or hour one, then start with Daily Charts even if the child is 8 years old and older.

For Weekly Charts, your child shows mastery by not losing any privileges for a significant length of time, such as running through his margin of error blocks but not any privilege blocks until Sunday afternoon when he blows through 4 to 1. Mastery of the 12 block means graduation to a 10 block, with a margin of error of five blocks and five privilege blocks. Eight blocks will mean four free blocks and four privilege blocks. As the number of blocks get smaller, condense the privileges into fewer blocks. Most cases are completely solved by the time a child works his way down to 6 weekly blocks.

(This explanation of Charts is based on material that originated in John Rosemond’s The Well-Behaved Child.)

Get The Weekly Chart

Do Not Disturb The Family Peace

The rules of “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace” are fairly simple. It is not our job as parents to play referee or to intervene when the wailing started out. It is not our job to judge who was right and who was wrong. No assigning roles of victim or villain for us. Do not participate after the fact in their disagreements. It is not our job to listen to tattling.

To enforce this, create a chart titled “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace,” and place it on your fridge.

On the chart, list the top two or three things that the fights are about, for example:

  • Keep it down. (No screaming at each other.)
  • No hurting each other. (Do not hit, punch, push or otherwise maim your siblings.)
  • No tattling. (Do not become a snitch on your siblings.)

Clipped to the fridge beside this chart are three tickets, or pieces of laminated paper (or you can create a block chart with three “free” boxes and one with consequences for all kids). For each infraction, all siblings lose one ticket or box. If all three tickets or boxes are lost, all siblings receive the consequence (rare exception would be if one sibling was absent for the entire day/time period in which all other siblings lost the tickets/boxes).

This eliminates the problem of trying to figure out what happened. It doesn’t really matter who was at fault, does it? What this system is doing is putting the resolution of conflict onto the children, where it belongs. When you hear the kids going at it hammer and tongs, simply walk up, say they are disturbing the family peace and take a ticket or mark a box. No arguing, no drama. Then leave.

(This explanation of Do Not Disturb the Family Peace is based on material that originated in John Rosemond’s The Well-Behaved Child.)

Kicked Out of the Garden

Sometimes, a child’s misbehavior has gotten totally out of control and is so huge that something major needs to be done. Your great-grandparents would have said the parents need to “lower the boom” on the child. Whatever you want to call it, the consequences are designed to shock the child (gain his or her attention) and then help the child reorient to better behavior.

Kicking a child “out of the Garden” is one such method that has proven to work. Mind you, this is only for a single problem that has become so huge, so large and looming that nothing short of a nuclear bomb will clear it up, or it can be for a gigantic cluster of problems. Bottom line: This isn’t for your average, everyday variety of problems.

What would a child’s Garden be? Yes, the child’s room, which generally contains a wonderland of toys, games, clothes, books, electronics, etc. To kick a child out of her garden, you would:

Strip the child’s room of anything non essential, which includes any favorite clothing, toys, games, books, electronics, jewelry, etc. Leaving behind only a bed (no stuffed animals), chest of drawers, desk, lamp, school supplies and essential clothing.
After-school activities are halted. Child is withdrawn from all.
No more nonessential purchases for child.
All privileges are immediately put on hold for an indefinite period of time.
The result? A stripped-down existence. To avoid needless battles, transform the child’s room while the child is at school or otherwise not at home. Put the child’s things in a place the child cannot access, such as a storage locker, attic, locked room, etc.

Once the room is sterilized, put up a Target Misbehavior list on the fridge. This could be only one thing, or it could be a list of things. The child is then informed that his things will be returned after the Target Misbehavior—singular or plural—have not happened for a specific period of time. Fourteen days is the minimum, but keep in mind it might take the child six weeks before she can do 14 days straight because the counting restarts after a Target Misbehavior happens.

Put up a 14 block chart beside the Target Misbehavior list. Each day no Target Misbehavior happens, the highest numbered block receives a check or sticker. If the Target Misbehavior happens, then a new chart is put up and the process starts anew.

(This explanation of Kicked Out of the Garden is based on material that originated in John Rosemond’s The Well-Behaved Child.)


Strikes should be used for children age 6 and older. Strikes uses a short list of Target Misbehaviors. Instead of pulling off a ticket, you just say, “That’s one strike” when the child does a Target Misbehavior.

Give your child a daily allotment of three to five strikes because you want to give your child a margin of error for misbehavior. In other words, your child is going to lose a strike or ticket every day. Rather than make him feel like he can’t win, you give him enough of a margin that he can gradually ease back on the Target Misbehaviors over a period of time. You know how hard it is to stop cold turkey on a bad habit, and many Target Misbehaviors simply continue because the child has gotten into a bad habit.

You have to be careful not to get sloppy with enforcement—or overzealous with calling strikes on minutiae. Just be aware of the pitfalls before invoking Strikes.

Strikes work for children who are struggling with some misbehavior, but are not High Misbehaviors. For a child who averages multiple misbehaviors each day, charts are the better fit.

(This explanation of Strikes is based on material that originated in John Rosemond’s The Well-Behaved Child.)


As some of you know from personal experience, a time-out only works with kids who already behave fairly well, and then it’s only a temporary fix that doesn’t generally work over the long term. For kids who misbehave more frequently, time outs don’t usually work for very long or at all. It’s not a powerful-enough behavioral deterrent. Children who engage in High Misbehaviors need a more powerful message. That’s where tickets come into play.

I’ve used tickets at various times for several of my children, and they have worked wonders for keeping me on track and for helping the child realize what she has to do to avoid getting one. Tickets are most effective for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Two-year-olds don’t have the cognitive ability for tickets to be effective, while teens will find such a structured approach as an invitation for more misbehavior. There are other ways to help teens straighten up and fly right, but that could be a class all its own.

You’ll need a few supplies:

  • A magnet for the refrigerator
  • Magnetic clip
  • Three to five paper tickets
  • List of targeted misbehaviors—those that you want to eliminate

For the target misbehaviors, you must be very clear and specific rather than abstract. For example, “Being disrespectful to us” is abstract. “Calling us names like stupid or dumb” is more concrete.

For three to five year olds, start with one target behavior. For this age group, you’ll need to draw a picture of the misbehavior on a piece of paper for posting on the fridge since the child can’t read yet (or read well) and five tickets. Once the initial misbehavior is under control for at least a week, you can add a second misbehavior to the list. Then add a third once the first two are under control for at least a week, and so on, depending on the length of your list.

An older High Misbehavior child should only have a few misbehaviors on the list to start with. With kids older than age five, start with no more than three, very specific misbehaviors.

A couple of notes before we continue: First, white noise. Static is things like eye rolling, sighing, grinning, when you’re talking to a child. It could be that you are not using Alpha Speech’s short and sweet principle, and it’s your child’s way of saying you’re talking too much. But regardless, that type of white noise in and of itself should be ignored. Once you correct your speech to be less wordy and you deprive the actions of oxygen (i.e. your attention), those things generally resolve themselves.

Second, beware of micromanaging your child’s discipline. Micromanagement creates major problems in any context, but especially in discipline. When parents micromanage by harping on white noise, the child can be easily provoked into even more defiance and insolence. So ignore:

  • Eye-rolling (resist the urge to say, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me when I’m talking to you!”)
  • Body posture (“Stand up/sit up straight when I’m talking to you!”)
  • No eye contact (“Look at me when I talk to you!”)
  • Grinning/smiling/looking pleased with herself (“Wipe that grin off your face, missy!”)
  • Incredulous facial expression (“You know what I’m talking about!”)

Okay, back to tickets. Put your Target Misbehaviors on the refrigerator with a magnet. Tickets are affixed to the magnetic clip and stuck near the Target Misbehaviors on the fridge. Remember, you should start with no more than three Target Misbehaviors and five tickets per day. Three-year-olds should get one Target Misbehavior and five tickets per day.

Here’s the procedure:

First, the parent—whoever is closest to the child at the time of the misbehavior—takes the child to the fridge, points to the item on the Target Misbehavior list and says, “X is on your list, so that means you’re losing a ticket.”
Second, the parent—or child, if she’s tall enough to reach the clip—takes one ticket out of the clip and places it on the counter top or fridge top.
Third, you can if you’d like—not a requirement—add a 5 to 15-minute timeout for each ticket lost. The location should be remote, and you should set a timer for release (as opposed to saying “you can come out now”). However, if your child refuses to do the timeout, you can have him trade another ticket for the timeout, thereby losing two tickets at once, or forgo the timeout completely. Note: a timeout doesn’t work by itself, but as part of a system like Tickets, it can be helpful by providing parent and child a time to cool down separately.
Once a child has lost all his tickets that day, a consequence is levied. This shouldn’t be something small, but something large that incorporates both the Agony and Godfather Principles.

The Agony Principle is that parents should not agonize over anything a child does or fails to do if the child is perfectly capable of agonizing over it himself.
The Godfather Principle is to make the child an offer he can’t refuse. This basically says that you present the child with an alternative so hideous, so unthinkable that the child decides to solve the problem herself rather than experience that again.
Usually, I recommend when the child loses all tickets, he is immediately sent to his room for the rest of the day (only coming out to use the bathroom, eat dinner with the family, do his chores or leave the house with the family), with an earlier bedtime of at least an hour (or right after supper, lights out). His room should be stripped of play value during the tickets phase. You want him to be uncomfortable in his surroundings, so take away toys and games and books and electronics.

The next day, all tickets are restored—the slate is wiped clean! No carrying over un-lost tickets from the day before.

Your child could lose more than one ticket at a time if his behavior is especially egregious, such as spitting or name calling. For any act of violence toward a parent or sibling or pet, then the child loses all remaining tickets immediately, regardless of whether the child actually connected physically with the object of his rage. In other words, it’s the intent, not the action, that’s being targeted.

You also have freedom to improvise as necessary. Say your child has three Target Misbehaviors and five tickets per day. Her teacher calls to tell you that the child called her “stupid” in front of the class. Instead of using the ticket system, you have the child handwrite a letter of apology to the teacher, read it in front of the class, and take away every privilege plus confine her to her room for a week.

To make the Ticket Program successful, you must not give warnings, as in “Do you want to lose a ticket?” or “If you’re not obedient, I’ll take a ticket.”

Don’t let a child “earn back” tickets with good behavior. Once a ticket is lost, it stays lost for the rest of the day.

As a child’s behavior improves, you can either add more Target Behaviors or reduce the number of tickets. After the child keeps the Target Misbehaviors under control for at least a month, then you can suspend the program. Usually, full rehabilitation takes 6 to 12 weeks.

(This explanation of Tickets is based on material that originated in John Rosemond’s The Well-Behaved Child.)


(703) 691-1676

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.