I could have called this a parenting tip or parenting advice, but that would mean I know something more about parenting than anyone else reading this. That certainly isn’t the case.
We’ve got two daughters, ages 6 and 4. One day they returned home from shopping with mom and announced that they were each getting a LeapPad. I guess the guy at the store told my wife that they would be extremely discounted in the next few weeks because a new version would be coming out for Christmas. Anyhow, we can’t let something they’re so excited about come without somehow turning it into a learning opportunity.
The reason I called this our “current” reward system is because, like most parents, we’ve probably tried a hundred different ones by now. This one has stuck for more than a few days, so I figured it was worth sharing.
So, we started with a goal in mind: a LeapPad (or Kindle Fire for the 6 years old). We told them that in order for them to be able to get their prize, they had to earn 100 kid dollars. I was able to find some great printable play money at freestuff4kids.net. We started printing out several sheets on 1, 5, and 10 dollar bills. Each kid got an envelope to put their money in as they earned it.
We’ve tried giving the kid’s money for doing different tasks around the house before. It didn’t last long since they didn’t have a specific item in mind to use the money for. Besides, they technically didn’t lose anything if they decided not to do what we asked them to do. They never had the money in the first place, so it was no real loss.
This time, we told them that they have $5 at the beginning of every day. When they choose to fight, take something from their sister, hurt each other, or do something else they know they shouldn’t do, they lose one of those dollars. On top of that, they also lose a dollar if they come downstairs after being put to bed. They’ve went to bed more than once with all $5, only to lose a good portion of them in about 30 minutes.
So far this has worked pretty well. Whenever things start to look like they may be degrading, we simply ask them “do you want to lose a dollar?” In most cases they stop what they were doing since they know that means it will take them that much longer to get that special item they’ve been wanting. Hopefully they’re thinking “is starting this fight worth losing a dollar?”
We have run into one issue with our 6 year old. She had a breakdown one evening on our way home from the babysitter because she didn’t understand how close she was to the $100 goal. She knew how much she had, but she couldn’t visualize what that meant. To solve that problem, I made a simple graph on the outside of their envelopes and we started filling it in whenever they get their dollars from the previous day. (In our setup, they can’t lose dollars that they’ve earned from previous days.) That seems to have helped quite a bit since she can now see how close she is to getting her Kindle.
I’m not going to say that this approach is right for everyone. I’m sure there are a bunch of you out there finding all sorts of flaws with this or have your own systems. If so, feel free to leave something in the comments below.
Featured Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net