Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will this help or hurt in the long run?

I was inspired after reading this post by JMom to come up with a way to hold Sam more accountable for his actions - to help him learn responsibility and to have something tangible to work towards. We have an allowance set up but I'm not the greatest at remembering to give it to him and he's not that into it yet. is what I came up with:

(the back story first)
At Target a little over a week ago I found this great dinosaur collection on sale for $15. It contains some dinos we don't have yet and I know Sam would really really enjoy it BUT...I didn't want to promote instant gratification. I bought the toy but told Sam that it cost $15 and that he would have to earn it before he could open the package.

Sam has been earning checkmarks for good behavior, kindness and generosity towards his sister (and others), doing things the first time I ask etc... He's also been losing checkmarks for disobedience, for whining, for picking on his sister etc...

We had been having trouble with having to tell him over and over again to do something or not to do something, but now all we have to do is say, "I don't want to have to take a checkmark away Sam" and he shapes up (most of the time).

He got up to 10 checkmarks withing the first few days but then kept losing and gaining them to the point where he even said, "I'm keep having 5 checkmarks." Originially I had intended to give him the entire package when he earned $15, but then I decided to see if he would get upset when I asked which dinosaur he was going to pick out with his $15. "Velociraptor!" was his instant answer. Then he made my heart melt when he added, "and then I'll earn another 15 checkmarks and get another dinosaur!"

So here's my question (s). (and please be honest and candid with your answer even if you don't agree with what we're doing)...Will this help or hurt in the long run? Will these teach him to be responsible or will it teach him that he's entitled to something for doing the right thing? Have you done something similar or have a better idea?


  1. We were just contemplating the same idea! Can't wait to see what people say.

  2. one thing for is teaching cause and effect. As for growing up thinking that he does something good, he gets a reward...that is a hard one. I'm not sure of Sam's age..and since I have younger children, I haven't been in the same position as you.

    I do like the concept of this, though. Eagerly awaiting other responses to see if this might work for my 3 1/2 yr old.

  3. I think this is a wonderful idea.

    To respond to what The Smiths said...

    I think that in the long run it teaches the same thing of having a job, right? Meaning you do a job, you get paid, you get to "purchase" what you want. Obviously right now you have it on Sam's level, he is still 4/5(I think) and he doesn't help with say other chores that maybe my 9 yr old would do.

    I like this idea and I think I will try and input into my house now that I will be staying home with the kids more often.

  4. I think this is a great idea - especially @ this age. I might try it w/ our 4-year-old who has resorted to whining and sassy-talk sometimes. I think learning cause/effect and consequences is important for kids. The instant they know they will "lose a check" teaches them about choices. I ready in a Love and Logic book, that kids want to make decisions for themselves and that it's good for their self-esteem. Good luck!

  5. Sam earned his first dinosaur today after practicing his writing and helping clean up while PapaBear vacuumed. Except for practicing his writing, everything else he earns a checkmark for is something that he thinks of on his own - we really really want to instill a sense of accomplishment that he can make the right decisions on his own.

  6. I think it's a great idea. They are young, so they need rewards for good behavior. So enough it will be all over. They'll be to old for toys. Let them earn it while they are little. Harmless. Keep it up. I bet his face was totally worth it. :)

  7. I do something similar in my classroom. Whether it be tangible or not, doing the right thing usually gets you a reward (recognition, prize, points towards something...).
    I think it's good that he has to work for things. You could enforce the positive behaviors with him by reminding him how proud you are of what he has done. Good luck!

  8. I don't think that it makes him think that he is entitled to something. Maybe in the beginning, but after a while he is still learning the appropriate behavior and that is becoming habit. When you decide to do away with the prizes you can just space them further apart or make them more challenging to attain or something like that. Kind of with the whole reward potty training thing if you ever have done it like that.

  9. I think this is a great way to start habits of good behaviors in him. Eventually, it will just be a choice he makes on his own. Now, if you have to continue the rewards for years to get good behavior, I'd say you might need to rethink it, but for now, I think it is a great tool! In fact, I might just use it with my guys!

  10. I think it is good to use as a temporary tool rather than a permanent solution.

    I know with my kids any sort of reward chart or that type of thing for behavior ends up being more work for me and if it is carried on too long it ends up being an expected thing so that if I were to ask/tell them to put their toys away they want to know "what's it in for me?"

    It is always hard for me to decide because I want to reward them but at the same time I want/need them to do things because they are part of the family and we all need to work together.

    I tend to lean more toward just verbal praise and consequences because with 3 small children it is just easier for me.

    I have done the earning thing when it is something above and beyond. My daughter wanted a doll that went potty or something like that and so I told her that if she did Extra things that she could earn the money towards it. Things like picking up her toys and making her bed didn't count.

    She was able to earn money by doing things like washing the windows and picking up garbage in the lawn.

    I feel it is easier for me this way because then they just know that certain things are expected of them simply because they are part of the family but they can still learn cause and effect of their efforts if they want to go above and beyond the normal.

  11. Saying hi to a fellow BlogFrog community leader.

    Anyways as a mother who has teenagers now and who was a pre-school teacher I think this is a great idea. Cause and effect is something we are constantly teaching. If you do something good (like good grades in school) then you receive more privileges, if you bring home poor grades then privileges will be taken away.

    They is a concept they will have to face all the way into adult hood.

    Keep up the great work!

  12. I am all for earning a check mark for each time you do what we ask of you the first time, but be careful with taking away check marks he has already earned. 2 reasons: it says that listening the first time is less important/valued than when he fails to do so, and negative reinforcement will totally backfire with some kids (like my eldest). But by all means...1 check=listening the first time, and 15 checks= a dinosaur!! Awesome! Unable to listen the first time? make a big deal of telling him how sad you are that you can't add another check and review how close to his goal he is. He has control and is learning that he is in control of the consequences in his life, even the positive ones! Good choices=good times. Excellent. (Sorry so long; I'm a teacher. Struck a chord!)

  13. Just read Sam earned his first dino! Congrats to you both!!!

  14. I don't see how it hurts him. It teaches him responsibility and good behavior and that things are not free. We do a thing called "Monkey Stars" My son can earn up to 2 a day. 1 for no timeouts and 1 for something nice I caught him doing during the day. After he earns 10 then he gets a reward/prize. For awhile I would pick out something but now its working to give him some choices in advance so he knows what he's working for.

    The thing I'm bad at is remembering to do it. When we do, thought the results are great as far as behavior.

    The things I've learned with systems like this is to make sure the child knows the "rules", stick it out, and don't make it TOO hard. Make the expectations realistic for their age.

    The dinos look like fun!!

  15. I actually wouldn't know if it's right or wrong, but I really like the idea - it's not a bribe, it's a great INCENTIVE.

  16. I agree that you shouldn't be taking away checks. He earned them himself and should be confident in keeping them.

    I also think that if you made it less, like 7 checks for each dino, it would enable him to keep the goal in sight better.

  17. It's fascinating to me that you posted this, because just last week we started the same thing (for the first time) with my daughter, who is just shy of 4.

    She can be incredibly sweet, caring, kind....but she is strong-willed, and since the age of 3 1/2 I have often felt like we could go hours in a day where we wouldn't "jive" -- I felt like we were working against one another, not with one another. It wasn't fun!

    One day, she even got so defiant that she muttered under her breath, completely out of left field: "Mommy, I won't listen to God." SAY WHAT???! She knew this would drive me nuts.

    My husband and I had a powwow and are trying a few tactics...

    1) Emphasizing the positive with her, because she is very sensitive, and we've noticed that if she FEELS that she is good she will act good, and if she feels that she's been "bad" she will act the role of "bad";

    2) Trying very hard to use humor and patience rather than shouting, which, in our frustration, we were doing more than usual. "To create a calm child you must have a calm house," I read somewhere;

    and 3) we started a chart just like yours. She can earn 10 stars. She does get stars taken away for poor behavior but I let her earn them back rather quickly -- I try to "move on" and focus on the good things again. The first round, it took her 4 days to earn 10 stars. This seemed too slow for a child who's not quite 4, although she WAS thrilled to go to Target and pick out, of all things, a Star Wars sticker book (??!). The second round, it's taken her 2 days, and the reward she asked for was "special playtime with Mommy, while Daddy takes [her brother] out to play." You got it, girl!

    I think your plan is a good emphasizes the positive, orients your son towards a goal, and simply reminds him more frequently of what he should be doing...and I think young children need lots of gentle reminders! Anyway, I am REALLY sorry that this got so long, and I am very interested to hear how this plan works out for you. Love your blog. Thanks.


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