Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"YOU DID IT!" Reward System

It's still amazing to me what a kid will do to earn a sticker, but then I realize how good it feels when I, as a grown adult, simply cross something off my "to do" list. Sometimes, I'll even write down things I've already done, just so I can cross them off. I know, pathetic. It seems such a small thing; but it carries deep satisfaction. It says, "YES! I DID IT!"
When my four children were ages two through six, we started a reward system that actually worked for longer than a week--I think it was closer to a couple of years. I used a large incentive chart with their four names at the left and hundreds of tiny squares to the right. Simple, right? The goal was to fill the squares with tiny smiley face stickers. They could earn up to four stickers a day. How? By fulfilling their responsibilities with a good attitude. See, because if they were going to whine and cry and grumble their way through their duties, I would rather just do it myself. I wanted them to learn responsibility, but I also wanted them to learn to be cheerful about it.
If you read yesterday's post, you know we had a routine for morning, after school, and evening. If they made it through that portion of the day (morning, afternoon, or evening) with a good attitude, they were rewarded. (So, one melt down in the morning didn't mean, "Why try? The entire day is ruined!" It meant, "I won't get a sticker this morning, but I'll do better this afternoon.")

I said four a day; that's only three. We also worked each morning at the breakfast table on memorizing our church's Articles of Faith (13 statements about what we believe) and/or various poems that would teach them a virtue or life skill. Children's minds are amazing! They are little sponges and I wanted to take advantage of those most formative years...ages birth through eight. Here are a couple examples of poems they learned:

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honour, power, place, and praise
Will come, in time, to the one who stays.

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life's victories, after awhile.

All the water in the world, No matter how it tried
Could never sink the smallest ship, Unless it got inside.
All the evil of the world, And every kind of sin
Could never damn a human soul, Unless we let it in.
(M. Russell Ballard May 1989 Ensign, p. 80)

My mother says she doesn't care,
About the color of my hair,
Or if my eyes are blue or brown,
Or if my nose turns up or down.
She says she doesn't care about things like that
It really doesn't matter.

My mother says she doesn't care
If I'm dark or if I'm fair,
If I'm thin or if I'm fat.
She says she doesn't care about things like that,
It really doesn't matter.

But if I cheat or tell a lie,
Or do mean things to make folks cry,
If I'm rude or impolite,
And do not try to do what's right...
That matters!

It isn't looks that make one great;
It's character that seals your fate.
It's what you are in your heart, you see,
That makes or mars your destiny.
And that REALLY matters!
(Author Unknown)

Whatever we were working on was printed and posted right next to the chart. As soon as the kids could quote it to me twice in a row without any help, they earned another sticker. It was unlikely that they would memorize one every day, but it was perfectly possible. The two year old was the fastest memorizer in the group! Check this post for tips on helping kids memorize.

Now, if earning stickers alone wasn't enough, every ten stickers they got to roll the die. Half the fun was the surprise of not knowing what they would earn. Here's the reward attached to each number on the die:

1. Surprise Box (A collection of small toys and treats that I picked up on sale and wrapped in fun paper.)
2. Play Date (Invite a friend over to play at our house - this was always a favorite.)
3. Mommy or Daddy Date (A one-on-one evening out doing a fun activity like bowling or getting manicures. The evening usually included ice cream cones and a late bedtime.)
4. Shiny new quarter (Yes, they loved this reward. It was enough to buy a giant gumball from the machine at Costco. They didn't care that it had taken them days to earn 25 cents. It was their own hard-earned coin!)
5. Painting on the art easel (This was a messy activity that required supervision. I didn't let them do it everyday.)
6. Free Choice or Roll Again (It was really "free choice", but if they couldn't decide within a reasonable amount of time, we made them roll again.)

I think one of the reasons this system worked so well is that it integrated both short-term and long-term goals. It also had a variety of rewards so they didn't get bored easily. Everyone gathered around for the die rolling whenever someone earned ten stickers. The entire family would cheer them on. Some earned ten stickers every two and a half days, others took a week. Everyone could work at their own pace.

My kids are now ages 17 to 21. They can still tell you what each die roll represented and I'll never forget the precious mommy dates we shared.
Jennie and Mom - May 1996
This pic was taken in a photo booth
at the mall during one of our mommy/daughter dates.

1 comment:

  1. You have so many good ideas and i love that picture of you and jennie!