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Accountable Kids: Raising Accountable Kids One Step at a Time Review by Dena Wood

Scott W. Heaton, LMFT, and Traci S. Heaton
Timeless Treasures
P.O. Box 232
Fredonia, AZ 86022

At first glance, the wooden plaque strung with colorful hanging colorful tags appears to be a cute and creative chore system. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize it is much more. The Accountable Kids program is designed to empower parents, strengthen the parent-child relationship, develop accountability in children, change negative behavioral patterns, and encourage the positives. A tall order, for sure! So just how does the program work?

Accountable Kids is based on the law of the harvest as expressed in Galatians 6:5--"For whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Parents first read through the informative and detailed 198-page Accountable Kids book. Here you will learn the basis for the program, the goals for the child, an introduction to the program components, information on understanding and analyzing your child's developmental level, and detailed specifics and examples for initiating the program. And if that isn't enough, the set also includes a Quick Start Video.

I found the chapter on understanding your child's developmental level to be especially interesting. Along with explanations and descriptions of the various levels, the books includes some fun and simple experiments to help you determine if your child is operating at a sensory motor, preoperational, operational, or formal operational level. A knowledge of the various levels and common struggles for each age group helps you to better understand and respond effectively to your child.

The AK program consists of four steps. Children move on to the next step after mastering the previous step. Depending on age, children could require from one week to one month for each step.

The first step involves the introduction of Chore Cards. These are colorful, laminated tags labeled with various chores that you will assign as Core Chores and Extra Chores. Colored bars on the bottom of the cards indicate the time of day the chore is to be completed--morning, day, or evening. There are specific instructions for discussing the new chore system with your child. This step also involves Tickets that are earned for the completion of Core Chores.

A Ticket represents a privilege or activity that the child was previously given outright but must now be earned, thus removing a sense of entitlement. The privilege earned by the Ticket must ALWAYS be earned. Therefore, you cannot use a privilege that you are willing to offer when the child has not earned a Ticket. For example, if watching a movie is one of the Ticket privileges, you are not to allow your child to watch a movie without a Ticket. While I understand the concept, I found it a bit difficult to determine what I would use as a Ticket privilege. The one thing I was sure I could refuse if a Ticket hadn't been earned was a snack, but the book suggests not using food as a privilege. Fortunately, the book includes a list of possibilities (television, art projects, riding a bike, phone calls, later bedtime, back rub, computer time, etc.).

Best Behavior Cards are used to reinforce positive character qualities, such as honesty, integrity, charity, faith, etc. These cards are awarded when specific traits are noticed, thus opening the door to communication. Best Behavior Cards can be assigned a privilege or not. Alternatively, Tickets can be taken away for negative behaviors. Specifics are given for disciplining with Tickets.

The second step in the program involves the Special Date Card and the Privilege Pass. These instill the concept of working for a future reward. Stickers are awarded each day Core Chores are completed and affixed to boxes in the Special Date Card. When all ten boxes are filled, the child earns a special time with a parent. Again suggestions are offered for the date.

The Privilege Pass is intended to eliminate a specific negative behavior. This Pass purchases a special privilege that can be earned every day for changing a negative behavior. For example, your child might earn a Privilege Pass for being dressed and ready for school on their own by 8 a.m. This might earn a story read by mom.

Step three focuses on Extra Chores & Savings and helps children learn to manage money by earning Bonus Bucks for Extra Chores. Helping Hands cards are awarded for service and are not tied to a specific job. A Helping Hands card can be added to the daily Core Chores to teach your child to watch for opportunities to serve.

The fourth and final step in the program includes the Family Forum and Quiet Time. The Family Forum is basically a family meeting intended to allow members to voice frustrations or problems, share thoughts, create rules, etc. The Family Forum is an essential part of the AK program, and the book includes some fun ideas for organizing these family meetings.

Quiet Time is the final concept introduced in the AK program. A Quiet Time is established for a specific length and time of day. Each family member spends that time alone in a quiet activity. Again, suggestions are provided.

The book is interspersed with quotes from parents who have used the program, sharing specific situations and how they were able to implement various program concepts. The final chapter is a series of Questions and Answers with similar questions from parents. A helpful appendix offers forms to help you identify and track the specific issues and needs of your family.

As I stated initially, Accountable Kids is far from being simply a chore program. While it sounds a bit overwhelming, it really isn't since each concept is introduced and mastered before the next one is introduced. It may take months before the entire program is being used as suggested.

However, the program, as written, DOES require a great deal of commitment on the part of the parents. Are you willing to be consistent with privileges, nail down the specifics for discipline and chores, have monthly family meetings, etc? If so, the AK program is a great tool to help you bring order and organization to your family. For others, it may be overkill, and simply keeping up with the program could feel like a burden. Assess your personality, your family, and your needs to determine if the AK program is right for you.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2007