Claire’s getting to the age where she can safely be relied upon to complete certain household tasks- getting herself dressed, making her bed, and setting the table are a few examples. For the most part, she’s pretty agreeable and enjoys helping, so we’re lucky in that respect. On the flip side, however, I’m finding that I have difficulty recalling each daily transaction, and when the time comes for her to earn a privilege, I can’t remember if she’s done enough chores to earn whatever it is she’s asking for, so I simply say no.
I decided to tighten up the behavior modification program in our house, and actually have a chore chart posted with the expectations clearly listed. This way, she could see her progress and understand when she’s earned something, and I’d have something to reference as well.
Now comes the tricky part- the rewards, or privileges as we call them. What seems to be the easiest and traditional routes for rewarding good behavior- food treats, screen time, and toys- are also teaching the wrong priorities. Food treats are generally junk food, and all that does is fuel your body with crap, so why are we promoting this? Also, studies are finding that using food as a reward is linked to emotional eating and eating disorders, and nobody wants to do that. As for screen time, I’m not a fan of children with screens. In my experience, I find it makes them ornery and abrasive, so while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours a day for a 3 year old, I feel more comfortable with that amount over the course of a weekend. And she’s going to have to earn it. And more toys? No, thanks! Just more shit to clean up!
So in order to help myself, and perhaps a few other families, I’ve compiled a list of rewards that are easy, cheap (or free!), and don’t complicate matters. It may require a little planning, but in the end everyone walks away feeling good.
1) Choose a game for the family to play after dinner
2) Choose the music station for 1/2 an hour (or the ride home, or whatever)
3) Choose a book to bring to school to share with friends (or even donate to school)
4) Earn a movie night
5) Extended bedtime
6) Trip to the library, or a local farm to feed the chickens
7) Host a playdate
8) Dance party in the living room (complete with mardi-gras beads and flashlights!)
9) Plan a field trip together, a bike ride, or a picnic in the park
10) RECOGNITION! At the end of the day, what your child really wants is your time, attention, and appreciation. By making a point to thank them for their efforts, applaud their contribution to the family, and publicize their achievements, they feel important and necessary. Recognition in itself can go a very long way!
So hopefully this helps, both our home and yours! Please share with me any ideas you have, or tricks that you use. Keep me inspired!