We’re all looking for ways to make sure our kids grow up to be responsible and well-behaved citizens of the world. Every parenting handbook tells you that positive reinforcement is the way to go: Reward charts work! But I’ve been through a few charts and systems and I haven’t had much success.
Reward System #1: The Sticker Chart
The sticker chart allows you to hand-create a weekly chart and issue stickers when tasks are completed or goals achieved.
Pros: stickers are cheap.
Boy Wonder dutifully tried to earn stickers every day but began to negotiate for additional lame ass ways to earn more stickers. Wiping your butt does not entitle you to a sticker, nor does putting your shoes on when I ask you to.
Little CEO declared that she was placing an embargo on stickers. But only at home, where they were attached to chores. At school? Love stickers. Stickers are good.
Gigi forgot where she put the stickers. And the chart, once secured to the fridge via magnet, got doused in ketchup and melting ice left sitting in the water dispenser catch tray.
Reward System #2: Melissa and Doug Magnetic Chore Chart
The Melissa and Doug magnetic chart provides you precreated chore magnets to place on the chart. For each day of the week that the task is completed, happy face magnets can be placed to track the child’s progress.
Pros: kids love magnets. You don’t have to keep buying additional items. Chart is customizable.
It’s like a $30 chart. Not cheap.
Boy Wonder and Little CEO used the magnets as checker pieces.
The dog ate several when they were left on the floor.
Gigi assigned fourteen chores to each child. Probably too many.
After the first week, Gigi forgot to award magnets when tasks were completed.
Reward System #3: Marble Jar
The marble jar concept involves giving marbles to kids when they do what you want them to do. When the jar is filled, they get a reward.
Pros: kids like marbles. Shiny!!!!!
Boy Wonder and Little CEO fought over the Giant Marble and who deserved it more.
Boy Wonder and Little CEO stole marbles out of each other’s jars.
Boy Wonder and Little CEO decided to whip the marbles at each other. Note: marbles hurt.
Little CEO cried because there were no purple glittery marbles.
Marbles are very noisy when dropped into huge glass jars.
Gigi forgot to award marbles after the first week. The marble jars had more dust than marbles.
Reward System #4: Ticket Box
The ticket box system allows children to earn raffle-like tickets that are then put into a box, to be cashed in at various times for small prizes or larger rewards.
Pros: it’s kind of like having Chuck E. Cheese in your house, because kids love those damn tickets.
Gigi never remembered to buy the small prizes so the kids could cash in their tickets.
Gigi never remembered to set up what tasks or behavior were worth what amount of tickets.
Gigi never got a cute box all decorated into which the tickets would go.
Anytime Gigi left the house and left husband in charge, husband would forget to award tickets. Cue children crying.
You see, all these methods of positive reinforcement require as much training and discipline for the parents as they do for the kids.
That’s why I’m now considering
Reward System #5: Hard Ass with a Side Of Negative Reinforcement
This system involves Gigi being a hard ass. Children must do their chores and behave well or risk hearing things like, “You must do it BECAUSE I SAID SO” or “If you do not make your bed I will take away all of your blankets and make you sleep on snot rags.” or “If you continue to fight with your sister, I am taking you down to the boxing studio and we are going to spar. How would you like that? Huh? Do you want to spar against Mommy? Because I will take you DOWN, little boy.” or “If you forget to brush your hair one more time, I am going to give you a mullet. Do you know what a mullet is?”
Pros: I like being a hard ass. And, I’m good at it.
I don’t have to make ticket boxes or marble jars. I don’t have to assign values to tasks or remember to hand out stickers. I only have to remember to be extremely mean.
Cons: my children may end up on Intervention in 15 years.