To Bribe Or Not To Bribe: Encouraging My Kids Best Behavior
Before I had children I would have sworn I would never bribe them to behave, to pitch in or to be respectful. Almost ten years into momming that inexperienced opinion has gone up in flames. To all the mothers and fathers out there I was secretly judging when witnessing the “I’ll buy you a lollipop if you get off the ground and stop screaming” technique…I deeply apologize. For years I tried the stern mom voice and the “look” you all know the one. Eyes squinted, lips pressed, chin titled to the side. It occasionally worked but it never really brought the best out of my kids and wasn’t really the incentive they needed to encourage positive behavior. Sure no one wants to piss off mom, or few sane people do, but is that really what I wanted my kids to be thinking when good versus bad choices arise? “Don’t piss off mom, don’t piss off mom, don’t piss off mom.”
I’ve been doing a lot of personal and spiritual work the last few years trying to evolve my heart and mind and live in a more positive, blissful, grateful and peaceful state of being. What I’ve been learning is that positive thinking begets positive experiences and vice versa. If encouraging my children to mind their manners, do their chores, help one another, show kindness to others, and respect themselves and those around them is done with a stern voice and angry look I’m guessing that attaches a negative feeling to doing the right thing instead of a positive one. So for the last few years I have been working on perfecting a positive reward system for doing right. In other words…bribing. I know, it sounds so dirty but it really really works. Instead of always feeling like the harping bad guy I am now the bearer of special rewards and thoughtful gifts for good behavior. Instead of getting nagged or cross looks to do their part they earn gold stars that buy them gifts from the family store. They get what they want, I get what I want everyone is happy and feeling positive vibes only!
Look at these sweet faces! Can you even imagine them not always behaving or doing what they’re asked? Well I can!
Pool days and ice cream dates are great family store ticket items.
A few years ago a girlfriend of mine and fellow mom told me about Family DoDots. A brilliantly devised system for encouraging your kids to do their part and their best with positive reinforcement versus negative. I quickly bought the kit and started implementing the strategy. I found it worked really well…mostly. The only problem I had with it was how time consuming it could be to organize and maybe I’m just a dummy, but it often seemed overly complicated to me so we ended up quitting on it. As I just revisited the site to include the link I’m realizing they have tutorials to help explain the system. Maybe I should have tried that…anywho, I ended up taking their philosophy and creating a version that works for my me and my family that doesn’t include so many moving parts.
First things first, I made my list of chore priorities for the girls. It’s the same for all three which keeps it simple. It looks a little like this:
- Clean Rooms
- Make Beds
- Tidy Bathrooms
- Pick Up and Put Away All Personal Items Left Around the House
- Do Homework
- Set Table
- Clear Table
- Clean Dinner Dishes
- Tidy Kitchen
- Put Away Leftovers
As far as evening chores go, each girl takes on the task that’s age appropriate. For example, my 17 year old can tidy up the kitchen and put away leftovers after dinner. My nine year old can set the table and do the dishes. My six year old can clear and scrape the plates and wipe down the table.
The goal here is to not have to nag them or really even ask them to do their chores every morning and evening. I occasionally have to remind Adalaide as she is only six but if I have to remind her more than once then she doesn’t earn her star…which brings me to explaining the reward system.
A family dinner made by my niece Madison and Sunday morning french toast made by Naleigh earns them both those coveted “above and beyond” gold stars.
The Star System
In the girls room I keep a little poem I wrote on their bedroom door to remind them of their responsibilities and a calendar on the wall where I put a star for each job done without asking. They can see their progress as the week goes by and each gold star has the added benefit of inspiring them to earn even more. You see those gold stars represent a dollar to spend in the family store. The family store is a basket of kid friendly stuff they can choose from at the end of each week. Everything in the basket has different values, so say you had an exceptionally good gold star week you could buy that baby doll you’ve had your eye on for months. The kids can even save up gold stars from weeks past to earn bigger ticket items, though they still don’t really have the patience for the concept of saving and waiting.
The beauty of the gold star system is that it not only positively encourages them to do what’s expected it also encourages them to go above and beyond. Helping each other without prompting, helping me without prompting, doing a kindness for another without prompting, all of these will earn them extra stars, hence more dollars, therefore bigger gifts. The only downside to the family store is if you’re a compulsive shopper like me you can end up getting a little carried away, spending more each week, on stuff your kids don’t really need, than you want to. Because of this Josh and I have started including coupons in the store for experiences instead of just things. Like, for example, a lunch date at your favorite pizza spot with dad. A mani/pedi with mom. An after school ice cream stop. You get the idea.
One on one time with Dad and a ladies lunch with Mom are coveted ticket items for Naleigh and Adalaide.
Our positive behavior system is pretty much exactly what the DoDots system promotes just without all the moving parts we had a tendency to misplace. It is 100% effective when we commit to it and can even be used to encourage the parents to get that “honey do list” done, or…well I can’t think of a single thing Josh has to nag me to do. I’m that on top of it! Of course you can modify the rewards for adults…you can even get a little spicy if you want 😉 I’ve found a little spice to be incredibly effective in getting those light bulbs replaced and the bike gear cleaned up.
I guess the moral of this story is, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, chores are a chore but if there’s a reward at the end of the rainbow…well there isn’t a human among us who isn’t motivated by a pot of gold…or honey as it may be!
My Silly Poem
Every morning when you wake,
Your lovely bed you must make.
Put each pillow in its place.
Fold your blankies and tuck them away.
Put your pj’s under your pillow,
Where they will be til the night that follows.
Tidy your toys into their special spots.
Where they’ll come to life and hope not to get caught.
Lovingly choose your outfit each morning, being careful not to mess all the other clothing.
Close your drawers and shut your cupboards.
Pick up your socks and don’t forget your unders!
Reading a book each and every day,
Is so very good for your quick brains.
But don’t dare forget,
To put that darn book away!
Put all crumpled up paper and dirty tissues, in the trash bin where they belong and I’ll kiss you!
Keep your night stand cleaned up and ready, for your cups of water and maybe a stuffed teddy,
This is your list of things to do each morning.
Follow it to a tee, do it even if it’s boring.
Perhaps if you do a wish you may make,
And grant it I will if you’ve made no mistakes.
But if however,
You ignore this order.
Whatever I find on the floor
Or in the corners,
I’ll throw into a great big bag,
And deliver to children who will be so glad.
Who will sure love, cherish and adore,
The toys, clothes and things you treated with scorn.
So make me proud and take great care.
Treat your things with love and always try to share.