Ok, first, I need to say my kids aren’t the most perfect little angels in the world (my own opinion aside, of course). However, I have what I consider to be a large amount of success keeping them on good behavior, and I do it through quantified positive reinforcement.
I have a chart that lives on the fridge where I can mark tallies of point the kids earn or lose. There’s a set of boxes for each week, one sheet per month. At the end of the month, I take what they earned, subtract what they’ve lost, and the balance gets added into a spreadsheet. The kids’ points are combined, so it encourages them to remind each other to behave and work together. If they aren’t getting along, fighting, etc. they BOTH lose points, as it takes two to argue 😉
They earn or lose points based on the rules of the house, which the kids helped craft (these are also posted):
- Treat stuff with respect
- Treat others with respect (this includes manners, fighting, etc.)
- Ask before doing
- Clean up your messes
- Do as you’re asked
As in life, THEY have the choice of whether or not to do as they should, and get the appropriate consequences. I also elect to award them in batches for good behavior in public, giving extra incentive. The kids can earn up to 5 whole points for good behavior at the grocery or hardware store. Alex’s class won the round for their grade level at Battle of the Books. She got a metal, 2 roses, and a brownie at the event. This all PALED in comparison to the 15 points I awarded her for all her hard work. It really felt good to see her more excited about my points, than her metal.
Once they’ve earned enough points, there are ever-increasing rewards based on real dollar amounts. A new movie/game, going out to eat, going to the movies, going to the pool, bowling, road trip, etc. There are a few tricks to making it work:
- The rewards have to be meaningful.
If you go out to eat ALL the time, it doesn’t feel like a reward. I often find it hard to not give in and do things they haven’t earned too often. I’ve learned they can earn up to 50 points in a weekend, putting the low-end reward ($20 or 250 points) earnable within a month or so.
- You have to CONSISTENTLY give positive points.
I do this by making a goal of giving out near 10 points a day or more. You need to reward them for nearly every little thing, then they end up doing good stuff in an effort to earn more points. It also makes them not want to LOSE those hard-earned points. Older kids earn more, cuz they ‘get the picture.’
I then chart their progress on a line, like the Oregon Trail, so kids can see their progress towards their goal, and how many more points they need before the next reward. (Built-in math study!) I put this on the fridge near the tallies, held with a ‘50 ways to praise kids’ magnet.
It has taken them 5 months, but they have now earned a movie or game of their choice. That’s $20-$50 for FIVE months of good behavior! Ok, I feel cheap, but the kids really enjoy it and have earned it. We use Netflix to rent movies, so we have a good list of favorites that they can pick from. Since they earned the points together, they must also agree on how to spend them.
Now, every family is different. A parent wanting to adopt this system would need to scale it for their budget and kids. If your kids are spoiled, you’ll either need more expensive rewards, or reduce their spoiling. Make it unique, something you normally don’t do. ALSO, there’s a big difference in earning capacity between 2 kids and, say, 5. You can always leave the points they earn the same, but increase the cost of the rewards to spread the cost out to something you can afford.
Ok, lastly, points aren’t just for kids! Ever sick of not getting anything done? I mean, there’s not much incentive for washing your car if you live on a dirt road. I seem to get around to it about twice a year! Anyway, there’s a smartphone app that awards you points for doing good things in life like paying bills, washing your car, cleaning, etc. It’s called “Epic Win” and their slogan is “level up your life.” If I had a smartphone and spendy data plan, I’d be all over it… you can find it here: http://www.rexbox.co.uk/epicwin/
Alright, that’s all the wisdom I have to impart for the day, take care.