Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Credit System

So normally in our family, we're pretty terrible when it comes to keeping up with any chart or system or anything that requires consistency and accountability. Between my scatterbrainedness and our general vegetative state by the time we're tucking in the children, nothing tends to stick.

But we've been trying something new, and it's been such a success so far that I simply have to share. The idea comes from a great book entitled Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach. The first section of the book talks (somewhat redundantly, I must say) about the importance of NOTICING when your children, especially those whose behavior tends to produce a negative dynamic between you, are either actively doing something right or NOT doing something wrong. And you have to be very specific -- not a vague "great job!" but detailed observations: "I see Susie remembering to clear her dishes from the table with NO REMINDERS!" or "You are working very hard on that picture, and sharing the crayons with your sister very nicely. Keep up the good work."

The second section of the book describes a credit system that we've adopted and have been keeping up so far for about three weeks. The way it works is this: All household rules are assigned a certain number of credits for being kept. Chores are also assigned credits. Finally, bonuses for desirable behaviors ("doing something helpful" or "handling strong feelings well," for example) are enumerated on the list. It helps to keep most of these at roughly the same value -- 10 credits, for example -- to keep your life sane.

Credits can be awarded as they occur, or, in the case of keeping rules, at the end of the day. Awarding partial credit, for, say, breaking a rule but apologizing and not doing it again, is encouraged -- the goal is to help the child succeed, NOT to tie weights on their shoes in the name of "making sure they really EARN it."

The other side of the system is the spending of the credits. This is excellent life practice! Our list contains a wide range of privileges, from video or computer time to eating a sweet treat to visiting a fast food place to trading in for cash to paying for parental "maid service" when they don't want to clean up their own messes. Privileges are priced accordingly (they helped us come up with both lists).

The beauty of this system for me is that it cuts down of the sense of entitlement I was feeling from at least one child, AND takes a lot of the onerous decision-making off of me. I felt like I was constantly being called on to answer requests for various treats and privileges, and that I had no consistent basis for making those judgment calls. Now, I simply ask, "Do you have the credits?" or, "Well, if that's how you want to spend your credits!"

Sometimes they're quite happy to cough up the credits (we use Monopoly money). Other times, especially from the oldest, I hear "Oh. Well, no, not really. I'm saving up for something big and I don't want to waste my credits on something dumb."

An attitude which, in my view, is perfect preparation for The Real World.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jenny said...

Sounds interesting, but I can't see myself keeping track of Monopoly money all day. Maybe I could track the kids' credits in my iPhone? LOL

Glad it's working well. Please keep me posted!

Galex said...

So cool! Thanks for sharing about this. I wish *I* could earn credits to spend on those things!