This is my latest parenting technique/experiment/rewards program. So far it is producing better results than I ever hoped for! Here's how it works...
I printed out play money in four different colors. I know it sounds awful, but I think of every possible way the kids will try to beat the system or fight over something you never thought it was possible to fight about (trust me, they will find a way). The different colors make it impossible for Brayden to claim that Bryn stole one of his mom bucks because his are blue and hers are pink. And, no, Zander isn't really participating. I just have a couple green mom bucks on hand for him in case he sees me handing them out and wants his own.
During the week, the kids earn mom bucks by doing chores. There are regular chores that they are expected to do no matter what. If they do them without complaining or without having to be asked, they get a mom buck. They can also ask for extra chores. This has been my favorite part. Kylie and Brayden ask every day for extra jobs. If it's a larger job I give them two mom bucks. Sometimes their "job" is to play with Zander for 15 minutes. Usually, it's something like picking up a room, folding laundry, making my bed, etc. I love this because these are all the little chores that take up the snipits of time I have during the day. So now, I can tackle larger projects without having a sink full of dirty dishes nagging me in the back of my mind. I will also randomly award mom bucks for things like playing nicely together or sharing a toy or candy. They're faces just light up when they're rewarded for good behavior. I've always believed and discovered from personal experience that consistently rewarding my kids for good behavior cuts down on the need to punish bad behavior. But speaking of bad behavior, mom bucks can also be taken away. If there is fighting, hitting, excessive and unnecessary whining or any other moment when I need something to threaten them with...losing a mom buck works every time. I don't have to yell. Mom bucks keep me calm and in control. And that's always a good thing.
Every Sunday after church the kids get to go "shopping" in the mom bucks box (which they decorated and was the kick-off event that got them all excited). The box has things from the $1 shelves at Target, JoAnns and Michael's. There are also suckers, gumballs and a few little stuffed animals that I got from my friend's garage sale leftovers. Basically, it's random cheap stuff. And everything is a different price. They range from $3-$15 mom bucks. I have a bag of backstock items to add each week so there's always something new to choose from. Another bonus of mom bucks...the kids are learning about money. They have to decide whether they want to save for a bigger item or blow it all on small items. They've surprised me with how quickly they've caught on. Each week they do the math and weigh the pros and cons. So far, they've chosen to buy a small item and planned out exactly how many mom bucks they'll need to earn in the coming week to purchase the big item they have their eye on. Bryn is struggling to earn mom bucks (the girl does not like to work). Brayden and Kylie were both sweet enough to ask if they could earn mom bucks for her so she could afford something besides a sucker. That hit a soft spot in my heart and I adjusted the rules slightly for Bryn. After all, she is only four. So during the day I give her mom bucks for things as simple as putting on her shoes. She was able to keep up with the bigger kids last week and purchase the gooey green light-up toy she wanted. I told her Zander was scared of it because it feels slimy and she thought that would be the funnest thing to have.
I'm sure mom bucks, like all my parenting methods, will evolve over time. At some point I'll probably include coupons for things like staying up late or an hour of video-game time. Justin suggested adding a really big-ticket item like a new PS3 game that they'd have to work together and pool their mom bucks for. Wait a minute...is that for the kids or for him, sneaky-sneak ;)