Thursday, May 7, 2015

Incentives & Rewards for Children's Behavior, Part 2 of 2

I've been asked many times for specific strategies for incentives and rewards with the children, so in Part 1 I presented to you 9 ideas which we implement in our home. In this Part 2 I would like to share with you our Points and Rewards System to be implemented when we leave the children with a babysitter.  *smile*

I strive to bring as much delight as I can into all of the children's character and behavior training.  So I look for the little things to praise for and try to jump at those with affirmation.  Now I am very aware that there is value in children doing things simply to develop good character; but we also do not think there is anything wrong in offering a tangible reward sometimes.  When daddy goes to work, he is rewarded for his effort by his paycheck.  Likewise it is also fine for children to experience rewards when they do good work or have personal successes. I'll share with you:
  • The general idea
  • The rules
  • Ideas for reward containers
  • My chart for keeping track
Some of our dear friends have 9 children just like we do, and their children are born in the same gender order and age order as our own! How fun is that?! *beam!* Our families like to say that each of the children has their "twin" in the other family. These friends of ours developed an awesome points and rewards system for their family about a year ago, and upon learning about this we were beyond excited to try implementing it within our own family as well - especially seeing how well it worked for their mirroring family order. We use this system when we leave the children with a babysitter and it helps the children to each heave success in monitoring their own behavior, making it easier for baby sitters.  All of us have been absolutely thrilled! I immediately thought that I need to share this gem of a plan with you all!


The general idea

The children earn points each time mom, or mom and dad together go out. They can then spend their points at the culmination of each babysitting time, or they may choose to accumulate points and save for larger rewards.

The rules

* Earning points:
Each time mom and dad go out, each of the youngest children earns 5 points. If I go out during the day for a dentist appointment or such and it will only be 90 minutes or so then I only give them each 3 points.

The oldest two teenagers earn the base 5 points, plus the oldest teenager earns 3 points per hour (of awake time), and the next oldest teenager earns 2 points per hour. They earn more points because they know the family's routines and so do directing of children's activities and the food prep.

Our teenagers quit earning points at the time when lights are supposed to be out at 9:00 pm, regardless of what time mom and dad return and the babysitter leaves. There can be some exceptions, however, such as babies or toddlers having difficulties after bedtime.

* Losing points:
A child loses one point for each infraction, but may lose all of their points or even into the negative for that day. We tell the babysitters not to give warnings - if they feel a warning is warranted, then the child needs to lose a point. 

We did make an exception, however, for the first several times that we implemented the points rewards plan to help younger children get used to keeping on the forefront of their mind that they have points they are trying to keep by making good choices. 

A teenager can lose points for being unfair or getting the children to bed too late. We haven't told the children the rules for teenagers losing points, though. And we give the teenagers the benefit of the doubt in decision making, knowing that they have extra responsibility with mom and dad gone for a little while. 

In the past we've taken away one point from everyone when we've come home to a messy house due to children refusing to participate with cleaning up over the course of the time.

* Young children earning, losing, and receiving rewards:
For a 2-year-old or younger we wouldn't do points at all.

For 3 or 4-year-olds we use "visible points" because a scribble on a sheet of paper means nothing to them. A teenager gets 5 points out and puts them in a clear glass cup or mini-bowl (i.e. 5 chocolate chips, M&M's, gummy get the idea). 

At the beginning of the evening the teenager shows the younger children their cup and cheerfully explains what that is for and when she will get to eat them (which is the next morning - explanation for this to follow).

Every time a little one whines, disobeys, hits, or otherwise needs to lose a point, the babysitter is to kindly and patiently take her to her point cup and explain why she is losing a point and puts the point away. Babysitters or teenagers are not allowed to eat the point though as this could cause bitterness from the young child.

The children then get to eat their points the next morning. The reason for this is because if they are allowed to eat their points at bedtime, then they know the babysitter can't take away any more and and they have been tempted to then take advantage of that situation.  (How do they get so smart at such a young age?! *chuckle*)

* Spending points for rewards:
We also rarely encourage the younger aged children to save points because we know that they need their gratification closer to the time when they had to work for it. However we have been surprised at how quickly they caught on to the benefits of saving for bigger rewards.

* Videos
This is allowed on longer babysitting times, such as mom and dad's weekly date night. Reasons for this are two-fold. (1) To help the babysitter and teenagers, and (2) to help the children be more excited that we are going on a date.

We let the children watch a video of their choice from the cupboard of parent-approved videos, or from our Netflix queue of pre-selected videos. The children can work out a system of taking turns picking the video. If a child has a bad attitude about the video their sibling chose, then the bad attitude child must skip their next turn for choosing a video. 

Video rules:
  • All dishes and dinner clean up must be done first, along with any evening chores the children might have such as putting away the day's laundry.
  • The children need to get into their pajamas first, have teeth brushed, and generally be ready to crawl into bed after the video.
  • Our friends who created this points system choose to have the selected video follow a 30-minute Christian-based video first, so that it's not just a night of pure brainless entertainment. *wink* We've not chosen to implement this personally, as the typical 90 minute movie already maxes out our younger children's attention span. And, we do not own more than a couple Christian videos (we don't own hardly any DVD's at all but choose to utilize Netflix almost exclusively, or the library). But from what I've found Netflix only offers Veggie Tales for 30-minute Christian videos and only a handful of those are "instant play".
  • the video must either be finished or turned off in time for lights-out time.
* Going away for an entire day or a weekend:
The children earn rewards in about 4-hour blocks of time throughout the day. This way the children are receiving the rewards of their efforts for good behavior in reasonable amounts of time. And, if someone is having a difficult time for part of the day they have a re-start point built in a couple of times. 

We give 5 points for each of three block of time over the course of an entire day from 8:00 am - 12:00, 12:00-4:00, and 4:00 - 9:00 pm. So over the course of 2 days the children have the opportunity to earn up to 30 points, and the teenagers as much as 44 points in a day to be spent however they like. 

Ideas for reward containers 

When we began the points and rewards system I went shopping to establish our first cache! *smile* I headed out to the local Dollar Tree, and to Wal-Mart to establish our reward system items. For younger children I found abundant non-food items at the Dollar Tree, and have found the food reward items at Wal-Mart, as well as some good non-food rewards. 

The teenagers choose their own rewards to have on-hand for when they've accumulated enough points. They typically choose rewards such as clothes, lattes, hair jewelry from Lilla Rose, make up, clothing accessories, or simply trade in points for cash to save up for larger items they would like.

Examples of rewards:

1 Point -
  • 1 Skittle
  • 1 Mike & Ike
  • 1 Candy corn
  • 1 M&M
  • 1 Hot Tamale
  • 1 rubber band hair holder
  • Any really little...

5 Points:  (think 5 Skittles-wroth)
  • 1 Lifesaver
  • 1 Starburst
  • 1 Hershey's Kiss
  • One packet of Hot Chocolate (marshmallows to cover the top = 3 pts. more)
  • 1 Sticker sheet
  • 1 three-inch glow in the dark bug
  • 1 piece Sidewalk chalk
  • 1 mini sticker-tape dispenser (Dollar Tree, pkg. of 3)

10 Points:  (think 10 Skittles-worth)
  • 1 Ring Pop
  • 1 pkg. of Smarties
  • 1 Reece's Peanut Butter Cup
  • 1 Peppermint Patty
  • 1 small chocolate bar (2-inch-size)
  • 1 small lunch bag size Potato Chips
  • 1 Matchbox car
  • 1 Headband
  • 1-half package of refill caps for cap guns
  • Bubbles
  • Army men
  • Rubber stamps
  • Rubber stamp ink pad

20 Points:
  • 1 small package of fruit chews
  • 1 small package of animal cookies
  • 1 small Chocolate bar
  • 1 whole package of refill caps for cap guns
  • 3 sets of earrings (a card of 9 sets of earrings cut into 3 portions).
  • 1 Headband
  • 1 package of elastic hair holders
  • Hair clips
  • 1 Bandana
  • Garden gloves (Dollar Tree)
  • A Doll set of brush/comb/mirror (Dollar Tree)
  • 25-piece Puzzle (Dollar Tree)
  • Socks
  • Pens, Pencils, Erasers, Mechanical Pencils
  • Squirt guns

35 Points:
  • 1 one-cup size container of cookies
  • 1 regular-size package of Skittles or candy
  • 1 pkg. Corn nuts
  • 1 Ice cream bar (or a coupon for one)
  • A full-size tape measure (Dollar Tree)
  • Tools (clamps, screwdriver, hammer...)
  • A mini flashlight (Dollar Tree)
  • A book light (Dollar Tree)
  • An 8-inch plastic dragon or dinosaur (Dollar Tree)
  • Action figures
  • Scented lotion  (Dollar Tree)
  • Scented hand soap (Dollar Tree)
  • Package of stickers  
  • Umbrella
  • Books 

50 Points:
  • Certificate for an Ice Cream Cone
  • Cap guns
  • Nerf dart guns
  • Sunglasses
  • Model ships/airplanes, etc.
  • Clothing
  • Clothing accessories
  • Lilla Rose Flexi Clips
  • Make up
  • Books
  • Coffee beverages
  • Cash in exchange for points

* Food items are always valued higher than non-food items because we'd rather they buy non-food items; but we know how special the food items are so we will always allow them in our reward system.

* Non-food items are valued at 10 points for $1.00 generally

My chart for keeping track

The friends we got this points and rewards system idea from initially used a tablet to keep track with, and eventually developed an Excel spread sheet. I personally prefer creating charts in Microsoft Word "tables", so that is what I did for our family (you may share my template from Dropbox if you'd like, for FREE). Here is the chart I print out and keep one current page of on the refrigerator. *smile* We keep a running record of what is earned, what is lost for poor behavior, what is spent on rewards, and what is the running total for each person. And the children can reference this at any time which is also an incentive in its self.

Here is my plan for recording points and acquiring the rewards:
  • I am the only one to do any recording of points earned or lost or spent.
  • Each time I go out I record the date, and I record the description of the event for which I'm going out such as our weekly date night.
  • Each event of going out uses two rows, a white one and a shaded one.
  • I write down in the white "+" (given) column how many points each person is given upon my departure.
  • While I'm gone, the babysitter keeps a running list on a post-it note of any points that were lost. This usually references only 1 or 2 people. When I get home we go over the list together and make sure it's justified and everyone understood why points were lost. I also talk to the babysitter, and teenagers tell me how each other did.
  • In the morning we then settle up the earned points.
  • In the white "-" (taken away) column I record any points that were lost due to poor behavior or disobedience.
  • Next I go through each child one at a time, youngest to oldest, and either serve their remaining "visual points" from their glass bowl or allow them to go shopping in the rewards containers to spend their saved accumulated points.
  • I record in the shaded "spent" row below in the "-" column any points that were spent.
  • Then I record in the "=" column the remaining running total of points for each person.
  • Once each person has settled out I do not allow them to go back and change their mind, deciding to spend points that they previously decided to save. Done is done.
  • I am the only one to help children shop in the rewards containers.
  • (In this photo of my chart, the teenagers column's are not accurate because I forgot that once to give them both the base 5 points, and then the additional per-hour points. Usually their earned points for a 3-hour babysit would equal the base 5 points, then 2 or 3 points per hour depending on if they are head or assistant babysitter. So for a 3-hour sit they would earn 14 points for the oldest teenager, and 11 for the next oldest.)

I recognize this may seem like a lot. But it's very simple, really, especially once you get into the habit of giving the points, then keeping track of who lost and who spent. That's all it is. Our children all caught onto it immediately. The most amount of time goes into simply shopping for your initial rewards supplies, but then you're good to go having found where you'd like to buy things and replace them as they run out. And it's so worth it in my opinion! Our children then do beautifully each managing their own behavior while we're gone, making the babysitting time really pleasant for all.

Our children have all been extremely enthusiastic about this new points and rewards system! *cheer!* They all look forward to it every single time I need to go out, and the youngest children are frequently asking me when I'm going to go out again so that they can earn more points. Perfect.  *smile*  I hope this idea can be a blessing for your family as well, and I'd love to hear about how it works for you!

Blessings on your family efforts,


Here in Dropbox you may print for FREE the points and rewards system rules written out for your reference.

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