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Wednesday, February 28, 2007



Discipline System: Privilege Ladder

Works for Me Wednesday bannerWelcome to Works for Me Wednesday, sponsored by Rocks In My Dryer. My post this week is the privilege ladder portion of our discipline system that I talked about last week in my Chore Board post.

On the right side of the Chore Board, you probably noticed a ladder with pegs on it. That's the working part of the ladder.

chore board photoIf you made a chore board for your family, add this working ladder part to the open side of your cork board by drawing a simple ladder in permanent marker. My ladder is two inches wide and the rungs are two inches apart.

Brow privilege ladder photoThe privilege ladder has seven rungs. Each rung has different privileges the children earn which we list on a separate ladder you see in this picture. (I made it out of cardboard and "laminated" it with packing tape.)

If a kid is on level five, he kid gets all the privileges up to that rung including the one he's on. The bottom of the ladder before rung one is, of course, grounded. This has base privileges like reading and playing with bucket toys, plus extra chores. (Leave me a note in the comments if you want to know which rung holds which privileges if you can't read it when clicking the photo.)

how to go up/down the privilege ladder photoEveryone uses the same colored pegs as on the chore board and starts at seven with full privileges including allowance. This picture shows the poster I made that tells the kids how to go up or down the ladder so they know what will demote them to avoid it, and what they can do to improve their status.
Brow House Rules photo
One of those components is that they follow house rules, listed on this poster. It includes things like no yelling or screaming, walk only, and use good manners.



The kids can ground themselves in two ways:
  1. They keep going down the ladder and end up grounded. In this instance, they must work back up from grounded.
  2. They do something that warrants immediate grounding. In this case, they are placed on grounded for a parent-specified time frame. Once they time is up, they return to the level they were at previously. I place the appropriate colored peg at the side of the ladder next to the level that child was on so I remember where to place him when grounding is over.


There is one level worse than grounded that doesn't appear on the board.

My kids would sometimes freak at being demoted and take their pegs off the ladder. And when grounded, they often continued to be bad, saying, "What are you going to do, ground me?" I had to do something, so I came up with the "buried" feature.

Anyone who is super bad gets their peg taken off the board and they become "buried." They must go straight to bed for the rest of the day. No base privileges, no chores, no meals, no nothing but solitude in bed, which they hate.

This special "unseen feature" has proven a very good addition. (The new board has buried built in. I drew ground at the base of the ladder and put Buried in the dirt.) They no longer remove their pegs from the board because if I catch it, they will be sent to their room. And they are careful not to act up when grounded. Simply put, they like to eat and hate to sleep in the middle of the day. Now that we have permanent beds for each kids in a separate room from the TV room, we can actually do this!


At the beginning of every month, on birthdays, and on major holidays, I reset everyone back to seven. This boosts their hope that even if they screw up, they won't stay that way. My friend who adopted my system resets her kids every week. My kids are a bit too stubborn for that. If reset too often, they choose to do whatever they want because they'll get reset soon, so I have to make my kids work a bit harder by making the reset period bigger. You can adjust resets to fit your kids' needs.


To earn allowance, kids had to be on seven for at least four days of the week. That didn't work well, so we altered it to a prorated system. If a kid is on seven at the end of a day, it counts towards one day of prorated weekly allowance. At the end of the week, however many days he/she was on seven is how many days of a full allowance he'll get that week.

We enter it into a passbook system which kids can use for a variety of things including hiring siblings to do chores. This gives them a realistic sense of earning wages. It works like this:
  • We record deposits like a checkbook register.
  • When the kids want to buy something, they have to make a withdrawal from the book for cash from the parent bank (me or Jim).
  • If they owe someone money for something, or want to hire a sibling to do a chore, they can withdraw it from their passbooks to deposit to another's.
  • If I have to do one of their chores, I make a withdrawal.
  • All transactions must be initialed by me or Jim for it to be valid.

If you try this system and it works for you, please drop me a line to let me know.

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At 12:09 PM , Anonymous CanadianCarrie said...

Great idea! Though, I will wait till mine are a bit older. They are 4 and 2. How young do you start yours on this?

At 5:05 PM , Blogger (Jim &) Brandy Brow said...

Hi Canadiancarrie. My three-year old started this pretty much with the older kids, and did well. He understood what chores to do because I labeled them with pictures instead of words, and he learned quickly the concept of going up and down the ladder and what would make him go up and down.

Your four-year old would probably do well with it once he got used to it. There is always a learning curve with any new thing, but I bet your kiddo would catch on quickly--might even find it fun.

The best part about starting this system (or parts of it) early is that they learn from a young age they have responsibilities and how to manage them. I've found that it empowers them because it gives them something to control--and they like that. And *I* like that.


At 8:45 AM , Blogger HopewellMomSchool said...

I've seen this work in other homes. I'd kind of forgotten it. We might just give this a try.

At 11:50 PM , Blogger TLC said...

I implemented this maybe 2 or 3 weeks ago. So far, it is working well. I don't want to jinx it. ;)
My kids are 5.5 and almost 4.

Two days ago, my almost 4 yr old son finished dinner and said "and now I will put my dish in the sink without being told so I can move up the ladder!" :D

This has done wonders for my 5.5 yr old reigning in her own tantrums (she has Asperger's) probably moreso than anything else we've done. I think SEEING the progress is so helpful to them.

At 4:11 PM , Blogger (Jim and) Brandy Brow said...

I'm glad it's working well for you so far, TLC. I'm about to add another post: The Silver Peg. It's something I added yesterday and I'm loving it so far.

After using this system for the past few years, I've gotten lazy on the Daydo and haven't kept up the passbook/allowance part. It became too cumbersome and regulated to maintain. The chore board and ladder, though, have become staples. When we use it, it works great. When I slide away from it, the house runs poorly and too much work looms. I'm always amazed at how well the board and ladder works when I re-implement it.

If I could come up with a replacement for the cork that keeps falling apart, we'd be set. That, and missing pegs, is usually the cause for us slipping from the system.

At 5:51 PM , Blogger (Jim and) Brandy Brow said...

Here's the new post, The Silver Peg. :-)

At 12:11 PM , Blogger catherine melvin said...

hi..i LOVE these guidelines..and i think i may use them in my household..
I have two girls..15..and 10.
The oldest..krystal usually does what she's told and i don't have much problem with her, but my 10 year old, amber..constantly argues with me..over EVERYTHING. she yells when she's upset and doesn't like to be told the rules in the home..i'm desperate! i know with dedication and love, i will get her to turn around.
thank you!

At 1:01 AM , Blogger Brandy Brow said...

Hi Catherine, I hope this proves helpful and brings you relief. We're still using the chore board. Instead of changing chores each day, though, we set it for the week. (Saves the bullseye and rest of the cork from falling apart so quickly and me from forgetting to set chores each day.) At the end of the week, I choose one kid who can set chores for the next week. I give final approval, of course. Feel free to modify the system to whatever works best for you. I surely have.

Thanks for commenting. :-)


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