This summer I have started a new reward program with my kids. I got the idea from some friends of ours who told us about a program they were doing with their daughter. We made some minor tweaks so it would work for us, but the essence of the idea is still the same.
The way it works is I set both Brendan and Kaylee a goal of earning something huge that they’ve been wanting for a very long time. In Brendan’s case that would be a cell phone, in Kaylee’s piercing her ears. We gave them the date that we would be willing to get them those things and their goal is to earn the items sooner.
They can earn their way closer to their goal by being extra responsible. By that I mean that they don’t earn their way closer by doing just the right thing. I expect them to do the right thing at all times. What they can do is go above and beyond my expectations. Brendan could comfort his siblings if they’re upset or Kaylee could volunteer to do some cleaning around the house above her expected chores. There’s a lot of things they could do to earn their way closer. I told them I won’t make a list of things to do, they need to be caught doing them by their dad and I to get credit.
On the flip side of that they can push the goal date out further as well. This happens when they’re irresponsible. All kids are irresponsible some of the time and for the most part I’m not calling them out on the mundane things. But each of them has a couple of specific bad habits that I’m trying to curb and those automatically push the goal date out.
For Brendan the two things I am looking for him to get better about are doing his school work during the school year and his personal hygiene every day. Even though we’ve been having him wear deodorant for 3 years now he still will not put it on unless we’ve told him to, he conveniently “forgets” to brush his teeth about 50% of the time and there has been more than one occasion where he’s gotten out of the shower without bothering to wash himself.
Kaylee’s big no-no is being bossy. Despite being only 5 years old she absolutely thinks that she is the center of the universe and that all must bow to her will. We are making an effort to teach her to word herself differently and to allow other people to make decisions once in a while. So far she’s struggling quite a bit with this and isn’t making much progress toward her goal of getting her ears pierced.
In order to keep track of their progress toward their goals I bought each of them a jar and filled it with poker chips, they reach their goal when the jar is empty. When they’re good we take chips out of their jar, and when they aren’t we add chips back into the jar. We are still only a few weeks into this so at the moment they’ve actually both pushed their goal dates out past where they started, but only by a few days. I think once they really catch on to what causes chips to be added they’ll curb those behaviors, which is the main thing we are looking for, and begin to make steady progress toward their goal. Because both are being quite helpful and have earned at least one chip closer every day, it’s just the things they’re not doing as well that are pushing it out.
At this point you’re probably wondering where Cameron fits into all of this. Well he doesn’t, at least not on the program that those two are on. For starters, no matter how much we talked with him and amongst ourselves, Matt and I could not find anything big that Cameron wanted to work towards earning. Then on top of that we had an incident go down around the same time we were starting the program with the other kids that put him onto a different path.
When Cameron is not on his ADHD medications he has a very hard time keeping his temper in check. While we try to be understanding about why he is angry, not being medicated is not an excuse that we will accept, so we try to redirect him and hold him accountable for his actions. In the last 3-4 months he has picked up this very bad habit of screaming “I hate you” at us whenever he was in an angry mood and not getting his way. We redirected and flat out punished him at those times but it wasn’t enough to stop him from making those comments.
Finally as we were going to the grocery store to pick up a few items one afternoon, I denied
Cameron something (to be honest I no longer remember what), he ran ahead of me, turned around and screamed as loudly as he could, “I hate you! You’re all losers!” That was enough for me. We decided that drastic measures needed to be taken in order to teach him that this was not acceptable. We decided to hit him where it would hurt most…his video games.
We took away all screen time privileges and told him that he would need to earn them back. I bought him a jar as well, and unlike his brother and sister his goal is to fill his jar. Similar to what they’re doing he earns his way closer with good behavior and earns his way further with bad behavior. The biggest difference is that if he screams “I hate you” or something along those lines at any of us all chips are removed from his jar and he has to start over completely.
Before you think that I am being completely unfair to him by holding him to that, he only has to earn 50 chips to get all of his privileges back, and he earns small pieces of it back at 10 and then 25 chips. Comparitively Brendan is looking at approximately 250 chips to get to his goal and Kaylee’s is over 500. Those are big goals for big rewards, but they have nothing that will reset their goal all the way to the beginning. We haven’t decided what to do for Cameron when he finishes earning his privileges back. Maybe by then he’ll have come up with a large reward that he wants to work for. Maybe we just continue on with the small rewards, since this program is so far working so well for him. Either way I think we will need to come up with something soon because he’s almost halfway to his final goal after just a few weeks.