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Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to Motivate Your Children to Behave Part 2 | Maris Ehlers Photography

Wow.  The response to the ticket game has been overwhelming to say the least.  What fun!

Some of you have asked for "rules".  Those of you who know me know that rules aren't my strong suit, but here are some general guidelines that you might find helpful.  They are based on what has worked for our family, and also that fit the spirit of the idea, if that makes sense:


1.  I'm the boss.  Most children think they want to be in charge, and they want to be recognized for their efforts.  This gives my children some independence and the ability to control the outcome of something:  Spend or not spend?  Earn or lose?  They respond very well to this!

2.  I love my children equally, but never the same.  What motivates one child may not the other.  How you discipline one child may be ineffective on another.  This approach allows us to have them work on areas that they individually need to focus on, and they can spend the tickets in ways that are important to them.  For example, I usually tell my daughter once to get dressed, and she does.  My son, not so much.  So... why should my daughter earn a ticket for something that is so easy for her?  I'd rather have her be able to earn a ticket for doing something that she needs to learn or master, like sharing!  My daughter likes to spend her tickets on things.  My son likes to spend his on activities.  If my son were earning cash, the options of how he redeemed the tickets would be less meaningful.  He'd rather spend his tickets on a trip to the library or some adventure.  What... am I going to charge him $3 for that?  No, but he can redeem 5 tickets for a special, unexpected trip there!

3.  Ben Bernanke lives here.  I do NOT associate a value to the ticket, like $.10 or $.25 each.  Why?  Because then it becomes a money game and I personally don't want to go there.  Think of yourself as the Federal Reserve (Ben Bernanke is the Chairman) - you set the rates at any given time and they are subject to change without notice.  :)  Part of the magic about this is to help them understand they don't always earn something.  The last thing we want to do is to motivate them to do the right thing only when they will get compensated for it.  That would not be good.

4.  Progress not Perfection. Once you feel your child has really mastered a habit or task and can do it easily when asked, etc., at some point they should no longer earn a ticket for it.  They should move on to another task or area they need to work on, hopefully branching out into new areas of responsibility and learning.  If they stop accomplishing the one they mastered, then I would simply add it back to the list and focus on it heavily until they "master" it again.  No fuss, just focus.

5. How many tickets do your children earn per day? I received this question from a mom interested int he game.  They can typically earn about 3-5 per day.  That doesn't mean they do, that means that's what is possible.  I want them to have a few in their box at all times so that if they lose a ticket for bad behavior they actually have one to give me.  Kids don't understand negative numbers (or balances), so if you say "I'm sorry, you need to give me a ticket for that" and they don't have one, they just think they pulled something off.  I also want them to have to stretch to earn enough to redeem for things that either cost money or take considerable effort.  For example, my kids each needed twenty tickets in order to get a castle.  It took them each about two weeks to earn.  I haven't offered another big ticket item and I probably won't for quite some time.  I also wouldn't start the game off that way.  It's hard for them to save up for a really long period, so I think especially in the beginning it works better when they can earn and redeem tickets more easily for smaller, more frequent rewards.

For certain things I will award a greater number of tickets, but it has to be a pretty big deal.   Here's an example.  My daughter was focused for several weeks on my son's upcoming birthday party.  She was so annoyed that he was going to be getting gifts and having all of his friends over.  My daughter is very strong willed and stubborn, so I was preparing for her to be an absolute BEAR.  All of the warning signs were there and I knew we'd have meltdown city in the midst of the party.  I sat her down THE DAY BEFORE and told her that if during his party she didn't whine, cry or complain (especially about gifts and friends), then she could earn six tickets and that if I had to warn her more than twice, she would not get any of them.  She also had to agree to the terms.  She did.  I only had to remind her once during the day about our agreement.  She was helpful, fun, wasn't focused on what he was getting and she enjoyed herself at the party, too.  She got her six tickets and let me tell you, they were the best six tickets I have ever given out.  :)

6.  Think of some fun ways to earn / redeem tickets.  I posted some ideas on the original blog post, but here are a few more worth considering:

1.  Redeem tickets to buy a gift for someone else.  Does Dad have a birthday coming up?  Find something they'd like to give him, and help them earn tickets to buy it.
2.  Teach them to pool their resources - is there an activity they'd BOTH like to do?  Teach them the concept of putting their tickets together to earn or do something.  Nothing like focusing on a mutual goal to get them to work together.
3.  Mystery Jar - Write down some fun things they can redeem 3 or 5 tickets for on separate pieces of paper and put them in a jar, but don't tell the kids what is on the slips.  When they have a stash of tickets, see if they want to redeem them for something in the jar or save it for something they have in mind.  They have to fork over the tickets before they draw for something... they may earn something small (like a bag of skittles) or maybe a movie rental from Red Box.  Anything fun... if you're really daring, put something BIG in there like a picnic at a park or a day trip to someplace fun.  How smart and lucky your child will feel when she pays 3 tickets to go to the Arboretum for the day or have a friend sleep over.
5.  Have your kids decorate a shoe box or pencil box for to keep their tickets in. They'll love the activity and feel even more invested in the game.
4.  Use your imagination and create your own fun and games!

Most of all, make it easy, consistent, engaging and have fun with it!

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