What Do I Do With the Ratings?
Parents should of course praise their child and recognize their positive traits and their accomplishments, but your child should also cash-in their points for rewards or celebrations. At the end of each week, the daily ratings can be added up for a weekly point total. Kids, just like adults, love to accumulate points to cash in for material rewards. Adults earn points for using credit cards, shopping at certain stores, or being a repeat customer. They cash them in for trips, discounts, and merchandise. Retailers know that points work and that points motivate adults to change their behaviour. We want to use these tried and tested techniques with our children.
Create a list of potential rewards your child could earn with a price for each reward specified in points. It might be buying a new video game, or it could be a special outing or treat such as a night bowling or going to a movie. You can have a “Celebration Market” much like you developed for the Attitude Credits (except those celebrations should have been social in nature). You’ll have a menu of items with varying points, so the impulsive child can spend when they save up a few points, whereas the child with good delay of gratification will save for the bigger reward. Making up the “Celebration Market” can be a good craft project to stimulate interest in the points program.
Each week you may wish to exchange the points for actual tokens or perhaps monopoly money (you can buy just the money at a toy store). This makes the points concrete, rather than just a number on a sheet of paper that often ends up lost. Retailers give out pretend money to be used on future purchases, and even adults carry such money or other coupons in their purse or wallet. Monopoly money obviously represents points, not dollar values. Helping kids create a special box or envelope to keep their tokens in is a great way to start off the program and builds some excitement about earning future points. If your child might try to sneak the tokens or money to supplement their stash, you’ll have to keep your money supply safe, or initial the money or tokens when you pay them out. If kids might pilfer from each other, avoid the problem by having each child initial their money or tokens when they receive them.
When creating the menu of rewards, consider what you’d feel comfortable doing for your child if they worked hard on their self-improvement time for a week, a month, or even several months? Use the following guidelines to assign point values to the rewards you’re offering:
- If you child worked hard for a week and earned 50 points (a good week), what would you be willing to do for them to celebrate? You probably won’t commit to going to a movie every week, so that’s too great a reward. Social rewards are probably more appropriate for short-term goals, so your child doesn’t receive a stream of trinkets and material goods. Maybe you’d be happy to give a 15 minute back massage for the same points, one to one play time, or maybe a day off homework.
- After a several weeks of good effort (100 points) you might feel good about treating them to a movie rental, take out food dinner, or a special night with ice cream and games. In fact, being responsible for their own work probably saved you the time previously spent nagging and reminding your child about their homework.
- Maybe after a month or more you’d be happy buying your child a new toy or gadget they’ve been wanting, so they can relax after working so hard. In that case, the item should be priced at 200 points or more and require 1 -2 months of good work.
Make sure you measure the point value based on what you feel good about doing for your child given how hard they’ve worked and for what duration. You should be willing to repeat the reward for the same points for an indefinite period of time. If the reward you’re offering seems cheap or inconsequential to the work being required, don’t expect your child to be motivated for points. At the same time, if what you’re offering is well in excess of your comfort level, you’re trying to buy your child’s cooperation and the price of their cooperation will steadily increase!
Keep these reward totals in mind (based on a 6 day work week):
A good week: 40 to 55 points An outstanding week: 60 to 70 points
A good month: 160 to 220 points An outstanding month: 250 to 300 points
Saving for a long term goal is fine, but some kids really need more frequent celebrations to keep up their motivation to earn points. You could surprise your child with a “free celebration” when they’ve earned more points than normal. Perhaps they’ve had an exceptional day, really worked hard, and earned all 3’s, or they’ve had a number of good days in a row. Tell them you’re proud of them for their excellent effort, focus, or determination (remember to praise traits). Have a surprise celebration such as a cupcake and candle at the end of their work shift or offer some boss time (child gets to be the boss of the parent for 1/2 an hour). If their work is up to date, give them a day off the next day or tell them to take the week-end off. A good boss lets workers go home early, or maybe even take a day in lieu, if they’ve been putting in more work than expected. No points need to be cashed in.
If you think your child would like to save for the big ticket item, which might take several months of good work, you might identify some “milestones”. These are smaller social celebrations that take place along the way when certain point totals are earned, but there’s no cash-in or loss of points. This is similar to surprise celebrations, but they’re scheduled in advance. Surprise celebrations are even more effective than milestones, but if you might forget to have surprise celebrations you should consider setting up a few milestones to trigger a celebration every couple of weeks. This helps keep your child motivated while saving up points for the “big reward”.