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Monday, June 21, 2010

2 Tickets to Paradise

OK, so I admit it.  I'm not beyond bribing my kids to behave.  While I'm against it in theory, in real life I've been known to compromise my ideals a time or two.  Sometimes I'd do just about anything to get them to be nice to each other and to listen to me, but it's hard finding things that they respond to.  I like the idea of positive reinforcement to help them learn good habits, and while many of them are great ideas and some work better than others for specific kids, the ticket approach really works for us.  Before I explain that theory, here are a few of the things we've tried in the past:

1.  Sticker charts.  Who hasn't done sticker charts?  They work well for really little kids, but it requires consistency and enthusiasm on the part of the parent.  While I'd have good intentions, a few days after starting we'd forget to give the stickers for a day or two and then before we knew it no one was paying attention to it anymore and when it was brought up, as in "if you do this you get a sticker", no one really cared, nor were they particularly motivated by it.   We even did computer sticker charts, and while that was fun for a while, if we ran out of time and didn't get to get them done for a day or two... same problem.

2.  Tallies for TV - this one would work for a week or so, but again, required some commitment on my part (do you sense a recurring theme here?).  I would create a chart for my fridge where I provided tally marks for good behavior and doing things like reading books, doing worksheets, etc., and each tally is worth so many "minutes".  On the flip side, tallies were deducted for bad choices and/or behavior.  Our wii is a "weeeeeeekend wii" (it can only be played on the weekends), so our oldest has been able to earn time throughout the week to "spend" on the weekend.  It works ok, but again, that consistency and enthusiasm long term is required, and once you get off track it's really hard to keep them interested. I'd spend more time trying to make the darn chart than we would actually counting tallies, and so it ended up not being a really efficient way to accomplish anything.   Also, parents need to be REALLY prepared to follow through and not let them watch TV or play the games if they didn't earn the time.  That's where consistency between parents comes in, and yeah, well, let's just say we didn't always have our lines of communication down pat in that regard.

What I didn't like about the two options above is that I would end up being the tally police, and then frustrated if things didn't go well.  My oldest would get frustrated too - if we forgot to collect tallies during the week, he'd be really upset when the weekend came and he had no minutes for anything.  Deservedly so!

3. The House Fairy - this one actually worked quite well for awhile.. I found it via the Flylady.  It is meant to motivate them initially so that they do a task long enough to create good habits.  If they make their bed, clean their rooms, etc., while they are gone at school the house fairy comes and leaves a piece of chocolate under their pillow.  They really do love it, but alas, the novelty of a piece of chocolate wears off too, and they become disinterested and then we're back to messy rooms. Oh, and when the house fairy forgets to leave chocolate, which she sometimes did, that didn't go over well at all.  :)

At Growing Families of Faith at our church, we learned about the book The Five Love Languages of Children.  It's an awesome book, and in it you can learn the love languages of your children (for the most part).  Without going into all of the detail of the love languages, I'll tell you that my daughter, for example, shows and receives love with gifts...  by gifts I don't mean we have to give her the entire toy department from Target... it means that she needs to give and receive tangible expressions of love to be fulfilled.  That could be a love note, a card, a treat, a little something in a gift bag that says "I love you" or "Good Job!". Basically, something that recognizes her efforts and/or tells her she's special.   My son, on the other hand, feels loved when we spend quality time with him doing things that are important to him (not necessarily important to us - sometimes there's a big difference between the two).

After reading the book, I wanted to do something that would  be customizable for each of them, get them to work on the things they each need to work on, and make them responsible for not only the task at hand, but maintaining the tracking (yes, lazy I know!).    I also wanted it to be fun, longer lasting than my attempts above, and most importantly, feel like a positive way to get them to contribute to our family chores and jobs without negativity, frustration and the like. If they could get along better during the process, yippee!

Remembering a game that my son played in his classroom at school where they earned tickets for recognition day, here's what I did.

1.  I bought a roll of tickets at Target.
2.  I explained to the kids that they could earn tickets for doing the following:

My Son: 

1.  Getting dressed in the morning - this is hard for him to do as he's too busy doing other things and when I have to ask him 30 times to get dressed in the morning it really stresses me out.  If I have to ask him more than twice he doesn't get a ticket.  If I have to ask him more than 3x, he loses a ticket.

2.  Getting to the bus on time.  We are habitually late, so if he's in the car and ready to go and we get to the bus on time, he earns a ticket.

3.  If I catch him doing something extra nice for someone, he can earn one.  This one is random and just because you do something nice doesn't mean you get one.  It's at my discretion and he actually seems to be okay with that.

4.  Sharing - he's really pretty good at this, but when he's rewarded for sharing it makes a good impression on his younger sister who isn't so good at it... yet.

5.  Household chores like taking the scraps to the compost bin, making his bed, taking out the garbage and feeding the dog.

My Daughter: 

1.  She really dislikes sharing, especially with her brother.  If I "catch" her sharing or doing something especially nice, she can earn a ticket.

2.  Helping to do household chores like clean the bathroom, unload the dishwasher (with me) and clearing the table.

3.  NOT whining (a big problem at our house).

What are the tickets worth?

Well, believe it or not, they don't have monetary value per se. I didn't want them associating the tickets directly with cash (like an allowance).  They can, however, redeem them for things and activities.  It's funny, because most of the activities we do anyway, but sometimes if they "earn" it, they just appreciate it more.  My son LOVES bonfires.  We do them somewhat frequently, but 10 tickets can earn him a bonfire, so if he wants to do a bonfire in the middle of the week and he has the tickets, we can do that!  For Amelia, who likes her trinkets and trash, she may see something at the store and say "May I have this or that", and I can assign a ticket value to it.  She then has to either fork over her tickets or let it go.  I'm finding it easier for her to let it go, because she's becoming more choosy as to what she spends her tickets on.

The best part is that they each have their own ticket  box.  Hunter just hides his away, but I will find that every time Amelia earns a ticket, she sits down and counts and sorts them all out.  So, she's building her counting skills along the way!  It's pretty surprising how well they keep track of what they earn, lose and spend.  In a weird way, they are learning to budget, too.  Also, if they leave their tickets out lying around, they lose them.

Hunter's Results:  For the last two months of school we only missed the bus a couple of times.  He was much better at getting ready in the morning with less frustration for all of us, and has now gotten in the routine of feeding the dog.  Typically I don't even have to ask.  He found a castle for coloring in a catalog that he really wanted, and at the time he had no tickets.  I told him if he earned x number of tickets we could order it, and he was SOOOOO proud of himself when it came.  He knows he earned it and is enjoying it immensely.  He typically spends his tickets on activities (that whole spending time thing), and he sees the castle as an activity as we can color it together, rather than just a toy.  

Amelia's Results:  She has been more than willing to help me with other things now.  She'll help wash the dishes, and do other things, but more importantly I'm finding that she is learning that being nice to her brother won't kill her.  She's not as competitive with him as she was before, and while she's still worried he's going to get more than his fair share, I am seeing her do random kind things for him and she doesn't do it because she thinks she'll get a ticket.  I think she's just learning the habit. 

Here's a drawing she made for the tooth fairy last night on Hunter's behalf.  He lost his tooth, but it fell out and we couldn't find it.  He was so upset, worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't visit, and after he had gone to bed Amelia made the card and put it under his pillow.  In the past, she would have just been ticked off that the tooth fairy came to see him and not her, regardless of the fact that she hadn't lost a tooth.  :)  

She was saving her tickets for her own castle, but decided she wanted to spend them on a pair of sunglasses.  I reminded her that if she bought them she wouldn't have any for her castle, and she INSISTED that this was what she wanted to do.  When Hunter's castle came, the tears started.  However, when I reminded her about the sunglasses, she really couldn't argue with the logic and  Shocking!  She loves having her good deeds acknowledged, and she also LOVES the independence of CHOOSING what she does with her tickets. 

She has now saved her tickets for the last few weeks and we ordered her castle together.  She's excited, but more importantly, she's earned it!  

It's really been a win/win and I think we'll keep it going for a while.  It's super easy just to tear off a few tickets at the end of the day if need be if we don't keep up with it during the day, and they are only too happy to remind me if I forget!  

Some fun ticket ideas:

1.  Have a 2 for 1 special if you need something done REALLY fast or if it's really important.  The kids love it!
2.  Do a ticket family fun night.  What is something that a child has wanted to do that you haven't?  Could they use tickets to go/do?
3.  Tickets for a DQ trip!  Don't collect their tickets until you are ready to pay for the treat.  That way they can easily see the connection with what they've earned and the fact that they are getting something in return.
4.  Instead of giving in to their demands for treats at the grocery store, if they are your "little helpers" when they go, let them use a certain number of tickets for a special snack.  Trust me, they'll either rethink spending it or be proud of themselves that they could "buy" it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  If you have already implemented the ticket game, please let me know how it's working.  If you have any questions, let me know.  If you end up trying it, tell us how it worked and what fun things your kids did with the tickets.  We'd love to hear it!  


Angel said...

Outstanding explanation. We just started last week with this system after Maris explained how well it worked for their family. It's been a great motivation for both my kids. Monday mornings in our house are always really difficult and we have a lot of tears. Today is was great because we used the ticket as motivator. We had no tears and everyone earned tickets. YEAH! We have not gotten to redeeming tickets yet but they have picked a few things out they would like to earn. We too have a lot "Can I have this or that?" while shopping and it has worked well to say it'll cost you this many tickets. The boys then have to think long and hard about whether or not they really want it. So far they have chosen not to use their tickets. Thanks for the great parenting tip Maris!

Sally Slack said...

love this! I wonder if it will work with teens!
I am certainly thinking of doing this at photo shoots for little kids, they could "earn" some bubbles or something at the end of the shoot!