Mental Health,  Motherhood,  Productivity

Strengthening Structure & Responsibility By Creating A Reward System For Your Child

Sometimes our children’s behavior and routine can get away from us because being that “perfect” parent, always hitting the mark, isn’t possible. That doesn’t mean we don’t go crazy trying to make it happen though -trying one form of discipline and parenting style after another until something sticks.

If there was one thing I could be perfect at, I wish it was being a mother but life has shown me time and time again that it’s not going to happen -all we can do is our best. That’s why I continue to find ways that help bring positive structure to our home before reaching that point of chaos. Unfortunately for me, that’s exactly what happened just before I created our Behavioral Bucks System; something that we now use in our home on a daily basis.

                             -A system I want to share with you.

The truth is, even when we’re at our best our kids don’t always align with us and they can fight us and test us until we feel like we’re going to lose it. Sometimes, we do lose it. When the time comes and your children start to take on more responsibility not just around the house but for their own actions and behaviors as well, it isn’t always easy. It takes more than just talking about this and hoping that they catch on, and even while we remain consistent they may not like the idea of being told what to do. My daughter surely doesn’t most of the time. Some may pick right up on this, some may get on-board for a while then stop, but there are times when the last thing your kids want to do is make this easy on you. Finding ways to have your children enjoy their chores, take on their responsibilities, and grasp the importance of their good behavior isn’t always easy! If you feel like you’re constantly nagging and reminding your kids to help clean up after themselves or they start copping a serious attitude and you’re having a hard time getting through to them, I may have something to help. This economic based responsibility system that I’ll explain below wasn’t just a miracle worker for us, the entire process has been enjoyable for the entire family and we’re remaining much more carefree!

UPDATE: After this all took place at the beginning of the new year, our household has never been the same and neither have we as a family. There is more structure, communication, understanding, and an overall sense of calm. If it wasn’t for this system I don’t think we would have reached this point.

If you asked me if this was possible a month ago, I would have probably started to cry. I’m not lying either!! Just last month we were having a seriously awful time with our daughter’s behavior. My husband and I were wracking our brains figuring out how we could make changes and just how drastic these changes needed to be. She was throwing one fit after another, saying those dreadful “you never let me do what I want” and “I’m never talking to you again” phrases that parents dread hearing and made sure that nothing we asked of her came without struggle. Yup, that was happening with our five-year-old daughter! Five going on fifteen. Did I mention she was a redhead?

I swear she doesn’t get this feistiness from me.

Okay, maybe just a little.

I still give her dad and me a huge pat on the back for how well we’ve done so far in her development, even with these past few difficult months. She is kind, loving, smart, funny, wise beyond her years, and is great with communicating. I understand that there are going to be moments where you have to make serious adjustments in your parenting styles, and this was where we landed. I’m not scared to say that our daughter is especially feisty, has a severe attitude at times, and can throw some of the most wicked fits I have ever seen come out of a child. But that’s just the thing, she’s a child. With these past few months, freezing temperatures and everyone getting sick, we’ve been more couped up than usual. She’s developing new, stronger emotions and has acquired new responsibilities over the last year also. Plus her father and I have added much more to our plates so we’ve been spread thin. We have had to adjust a lot these past few months and it’s been overwhelming. With her fighting us every step of the way, eventually, we realized that we needed to change our approach and she needed a well structured and captivating system to help her through those changes.

Now, I wish I could say that I realized all of this well before I ended up reaching the end of my rope and turning all mom-hulk, but that’s not what happened.

After weeks of heart to heart talks that made no impacts, being sent to her room, grounding her from watching television, saying we were going to take away all her toys instead of just a few here and there, and even discussing no more gymnastics, nothing changed. She would be okay for a few more days but then her attitude would come right back. It was so hard just to get her to cooperate and do even the simplest of requests like brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed without an argument. Heaven forbids she would eat what I made for meals.

Now add us getting nowhere with our tactics and conversations, her being disrespectful, me about to start my menses and we have a recipe for a full-blown “THAT’S IT!” moment. I lost my shit; I have to be honest. I had reached the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. Talking to her while trying to figure out what we could do as a family was not going to fix our situation and that was clearer by the minute, and it was time for me to let her know that I was done.

So, she lost everything.

I sat her down in the living room then headed to her room and started to pack up all of her stuff. She was screaming and crying out, telling me I couldn’t take away her things but at that moment, I had to do it. I had to be the mean mom. Dad sat with her and explained why we had reached this point and that we had given her plenty of warnings, but enough was enough. She had to know we were serious and our words meant truth. We told her that the only things staying were her books, puzzles, her art supplies, and because Daddy made the argument that her dress-up clothes were creative, her dress-up dresses. She needed to understand how awful her behavior was, and that consequences were inevitable, but we believe that essential creativity and learning tools shouldn’t be taken away as punishment; especially if she was losing everything else for who knew how long. We also let her keep all of her photos and keepsakes that we had gathered as a family because we knew how valuable those were to her. Everything else was removed down to her decorative pillows and fuzzy blankets. Hell, I even took down the nets filled with stuffed animals hanging in the corners of her room, even though she couldn’t reach them so that she could walk in and see how empty it was. I wanted her to realize how her drastic unwarranted actions could have severe consequences. I hated it. I also hated crying at night trying to figure out why my loving approach and honest communication wasn’t helping, so it was time to try a new approach. Surprisingly halfway through me marching back and forth with boxes of her belongings, she walked in and started to help me pack. I love my husband. While I was in the momster zone, he was able to get through to her that this was happening regardless of how loud she called out for it to stop. She came in ready to be a part of the change, and after we finished, her room was bare. All except for her bed which had one blanket and one pillow and the books on her bookshelf were gone. What shocked me most was that it was as if her attitude had magically disappeared along with all of her things. That’s when I realized that even though I didn’t want to do this, I needed to.

I mean now I can’t get into my bedroom closet because it’s filled with all of her toys and stuffed animals, but it won’t be that way forever, and I’ll tell you why.

I know this because I figured out exactly what she needed, how she was going to earn all of her stuff back, and how to flip the switch when it came to this uncalled-for behavior. Once I eliminated all of the clutter and non-essentials, we were able to work on the things that truly mattered, helping her continue to develop into that capable and respectful little girl that she is.

Now that I know just how amazing our structured system works I want to share it with all of you, so hopefully if you haven’t already, you don’t have to reach this point. Please tell me everyone experiences this!?

The amazing thing was that when I created this the next day, we managed almost instant success in adjusting our daughter’s behavior as unbelievable as that sounds, but it’s true. What’s even better is that we’re still on a roll now, four weeks down the road and there’s no end in sight.

 

Using supplies that are more than likely right at your fingertips, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Exel with the help of my husband -because I can’t Excel to save my life- I made four simple charts that help our daughter enjoy her responsibilities and improve her behavior by using a faux money-earning system. Depending on how well she did throughout the day, she would earn X amount of dollars and then be able to spend that money how she chooses. She also has the option of putting money into savings so that she can work towards her larger priced items listed in her “You’ve Earned It” store. Remember that each child is different, and the things we are working towards as a family aren’t necessarily going to match up to what you hope to accomplish in yours. Sharing what we’ve done will help give you ideas on how you can create your family’s system but don’t feel the need to stick to ours exactly. Change it up and have fun! We also made sure to include our daughter in the creative process so she could choose whichever clipart images she liked. We found this to be especially helpful when explaining what chores she had to do because she could pick the picture she loved most. Now every day she’s excited to see her daily tasks appear on her responsibility chart and is eager to complete them.

 

“SKYLER’S RESPONSIBILITY CHART”

This chart above focuses on her responsibilities as well as the topics we need to discuss each day throughout the week. Once a task is completed either her, my husband or I can use a dry-erase marker and cross it off.

*Each page is printed off and then placed into a plastic cover sheet so that we could erase the markings and keeps the pages clean*

A.M. ROUTINE:

Every morning she has the same responsibilities that she doesn’t get paid for. I’ll explain her A.M. and P.M. routines further on below.

CHORE:

This is her first chore of the day. Each task is worth a certain amount of money that we deemed appropriate. Simple chores like folding laundry and feeding the pets are worth $1, where washing the dishes and cleaning her bathroom are $5. You can see that cleaning her art desk is $10 because that is usually an area that causes most protest. It’s always a mess; she’s an artistic girl! When creating the chores, we found the media free online through Google search, added it all to Microsoft Word, then printed them out. I don’t know why but my Microsoft Word doesn’t have clipart, so it was frustrating! Once printed, I cut out each chore and put the picture between two pieces of clear shipment tape -sticky sides facing the image- to create a makeshift laminate if you will. If you can laminate them, please do! I wish I had some. I did this as cheaply and creatively as possible because I’m somewhat of a penny pincher, a-do-what-you-can-with-what-you-have, type of a woman. I added a piece of velcro behind each chore so I could quickly move them off and on the chart and store them on our whiteboard in plain sight.

HOMEWORK:

Self-explanatory, haha.

BEHAVIOR:

We needed a time in the day where we could address her behavior. Most days she’s doing great so it goes by quickly and she’s so happy to hear how we all have been improving! On the days where she has a harder time, it’s nice to stop and figure out where it’s coming from and give her a platform to speak during the busy day. Some days she is sad that we have to work more and have less time to play. There are days where she misses her friends but doesn’t understand why we can’t go visit. It has helped us focus more and explain why things happen then how to address these feelings and where we can compromise.

CHORE:

The second chore of the day.

P.M. ROUTINE:

Again, this includes the nightly responsibilities that she does not get paid for but are required daily.

REFLECTIONS:

We added ‘reflection’ so that our daughter could have a moment at the end of the day to reflect on how the day went and how she was feeling. This time is also when we go over how much money she earned. She doesn’t just earn money from doing her chores! I’ll explain that too in a moment!

BONUS STAR:

We added this area for the days where she does excellent but to tell you the truth we don’t use it like we had imagined we would.

“A.M. & P.M. ROUTINES”

We wanted her to know that every morning and every night, she has six things that she must do. We want to instill these habits in her so she could begin and end the day feeling great about herself, focus on self-care, and maintain a clean living space. She won’t be paid for doing this because we want the positive feeling of caring for herself to be the reward. We also put some emoji’s on the bottom of this page so she could let us know how she’s feeling throughout the day. I’m happy to say that since giving her this emotion chart she’s had a much easier time letting us know exactly how she’s feeling without becoming overwhelmed and upset or throwing a fit.

Lot’s of heart eye emojis!!

A.M. ROUTINE

She is expected to make her bed then come out to eat breakfast. After she finishes eating and takes care of her dishes, she goes and gets dressed, brushes her teeth and hair, then takes her dirty clothes to the laundry room. Dad and I are also very involved in her routine because we understand she can’t do everything herself. It’s now become a bonding experience without the stress. She loves the responsibility and that sense of independence, but when she comes to us and asks for help, we are beyond happy to do so!

P.M. ROUTINE

When bedtime is nearing we let her know that it’s time to start her P.M. Routine. She will automatically start to pick up her toys now without any hassle because she realizes that once she finishes, we will go over her daily earnings! I have to add she has repurchased only some of her toys at this point so cleaning her stuff up is relatively easy!

I think she honestly likes not having that much stuff. All of her small random toys weighed her down before it seems. Too much clutter can be overwhelming for anyone, even kids!

Once her toys are picked up, she takes a shower or a bath, puts on her pajamas, brushes her hair and teeth, and then it’s bedtime. But first, we go over how much money she’s earned on top of what she made for finishing her daily chores.

 

“HOW YOU EARN EXTRA MONEY”

Now, this will be different for your children of course! The way she earns extra money is by doing the things that we have had a hard time with lately and what we knew could use some improvement. Just like the chores, the things that are easier for her to accomplish are less money. For example. The reason why we added ‘saying please & thank you to a helping hand’ and ‘ordering food items by yourself’ is because she is naturally shy. We want to help her understand that it’s okay to be shy and not talk to people she doesn’t know but when someone helps you, or we’re out eating at a restaurant, it’s impolite to ignore staff and not use your manners. Sometimes she uses her shyness as a crutch we recognize that. This behavior was okay when she was younger, but now that she’s five we feel it’s time that she pushes past those fears in small healthy steps.

*No, if you’re worried, we’re not forcing our daughter to talk to strangers and not trust her instincts. We’re helping her distinguish the differences between being safe and be comfortable in her skin; we don’t want to reinforce her fears and understand that communicating is important. Like I said YOU know your child best so it’s important to trust your gut instincts when figuring out what your child could use help with.*

 

“MONEY MONEY MONEY!”
Behavior Bucks

 

Again, thanks to Google images I was able to find these faux money images and use them to create our daughter’s responsibility currency!

Now, this was a headache for me! Haha! I won’t lie!

I went online and found these images, but I didn’t think it through when I printed them off. What I should have done was printed the pages off double-sided but instead, I had to cut all the bills out, glue them back-to-back, then tape over each side to ‘laminate’ them myself. It       took      so     damn    long. Once I started though I wasn’t stopping and before I realized it I had created these cute little $1, $5, $10, $20, and $50 bills that our Baby Girl was ECSTATIC to see! I had a cute little Ipsy Glam Bag that I wasn’t using and thought this was the perfect handbag to hold all the extra cash inside. She has her cute little wallet where she keeps her own money too until she’s ready to spend it at her “You’ve Earned It!” store. The thing that holds this entire system together!

“YOU’VE EARNED IT!”

Our daughter LOVES, I mean she just LOVES everything about earning her own money and being able to spend it how she wants. She still gets upset sometimes when she doesn’t have enough to do things like watch a movie, or get a toy back, but now she understands that it’s all up to her and has to spend it wisely. She doesn’t blame us either when she CAN afford to watch T.V. but still hasn’t finished her A.M. Routine and first chore because it’s easy for her to understand. She has responsibilities and has to work for those extra fun things.

If she has good behavior the day prior and is kind, she should have plenty enough cash to watch a movie, a few episodes on Netflix, have a bonus snack, or go to the library once she finishes her morning routine and chore.

She can have that special snack or that sugary drink, but we have a special rule now that Mom and Dad can decline if she immediately asks after not finishing her meal. We caught onto that one pretty quick let me tell you! Haha!

Other than that, we have eliminated ourselves from what we consider not to be bare necessities and she loves having that sense of control over herself. She is enjoying have to work towards the things she enjoys and the independence of it all. Her taking responsibility for her self more, and seeing how her actions directly affect what she gets to do the next day has dissolved tension. The energy within the house is honestly anew and to me that is everything.

Not to mention, I have been less irritable because she’s having fun so we’re all having more fun! I can be working and see a smile on her face and that it makes me feel good.

When she gets to stop me with whatever I’m doing to dress me up funny and do my makeup, it’s so entertaining!

She loves being able to stop me in the middle of working and being able to grab my full attention. The whole systems prevent me from saying “not right now Sweety, I’m working.” She hands me her money and thinks it’s a hoot that she gets to boss me around in a sense.

She’s even asking me to do the dishes!!!!!

Never had I imagined that she would ask to wash dishes for me at five-years-old. It’s her favorite chore, I kid you not.

If you feel like your child is craving more responsibility and could benefit from understanding the direct results of their behavior I highly suggest creating a system similar to ours.

Not only has this helped our daughter develop a stronger sense of responsibility but it’s helping her understand just how hard her father and I work to make the life she is experiencing happen, and I feel like she was missing that before. Now she has a better understanding that there are things in life that she doesn’t just get but has to earn them, and she likes the feel of that work. We love watching her enjoy it.

I was speechless by just how quickly this idea turned our daughter’s behavior around. Not only has she been earning money through hard work and focusing on her actions but she’s saving it too so that she can work towards those more expensive items.

She can’t wait to go on a movie theater date with Dad and I. ONLY $10 MORE TO GO!

Plus; this concept is going to help her grasp economics more easily when she’s older. A skill that I had no handle on once I left home and something I believe more schools and parents need to teach if they want their children to be successful in the future. She may just be five, but I feel like it’s never too early to plant those seeds in their young sponge-like minds or help them realize that they have a lot of responsibility as an individual.

Let me know what you think, have you ever made something like this for your kids? Do you believe that something like this could benefit them? Try it out and let me know how it worked for you!

 

 

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