With the arrival of summer, many families begin reading programs and summer training routines, complete with new checksheets and a ton of fresh motivation. This post is not about the dozens of free programs for earning books and pizzas and Tshirts. This post is for all you mamas looking for simple, inexpensive, and free REWARDS for whatever tasks or habits you are currently teaching your children! As long as they are part of a plan and not a bribe, rewards can be a handy training tool. Just as adults are often motivated by a paycheck, children can be motivated by a reward for a job well done.
We used a lot of systems over the years, but one of the most fun was earning tokens, points, or tickets for each job completed, and then "buying" rewards.
In order to avoid breaking the bank, I collected ideas for privileges to earn, rather than things. As a big family in a small house, we did not need more stuff! Earning privileges and small useful items (that would have been purchased anyway) helped us keep the gimme monster at bay, while developing some good work habits.
These are some of the privileges our children enjoyed earning, and ideas that you can use anytime as a reward.
--choose the movie for Family Movie Night (choosing from movies already on our shelves!)
--pick out one box of cereal at the store (choosing within mom's criterion) for family breakfast.
[unless you LIKE sugar-crazed kids, set some boundaries]
--play a board game with Mom
--sit at the head of the table for lunch
--stay up X minutes later than bedtime
--go with Mom or Dad for the grocery trip
--choose the dessert for Sunday
--lead the mealtime blessing
--Mom rag-roll your hair
[having their very thick, extremely long hair tediously rolled in rag rollers was something my girls loved, and I didn't often take time to do. It was a major award ;-) !]
--extra playtime outside after _(meal)_____.
--choose the bedtime story.
--one day off from a hard job
[We don't call those regular home cleaning tasks "chores" at our house. At our house, those tasks are everybody-who-lives-in-the-house work, and we call them Jobs. Jobs are a Good Thing.]
--Mom polish your nails
--have bubbles in your bath
--30 minutes on the computer
--take a walk with Mom
--play a card game with Dad
--choose the kind of juice for breakfast
--make the juice! (from frozen concentrate)
--bake cookies with Mom for everyone
--play a board game with Mom/Dad
--choose the menu for your favorite dinner one night
--wrestle with Dad
--family picnic at the State Park
[this was an opportunity for the kids to pool their tickets :-) Nice lessons!]
--one hour on the phone
--play chess with Mom
--go along with Dad to run errands
--one day off from all jobs
--30 video game minutes
--extra read aloud with Mom
--trip to the library
--have a friend spend the night
--fishing trip with Dad
--choose the music to listen to in the car
--sleep in the tent
[with young ones, the tent was inside...they loved this]
--make a sheet tent, and leave it up all day
--have a backyard picnic for lunch/dinner
--have friends over to play
We did also include some rewards that cost money instead of time, such as fancy pencils, fancy erasers, art supplies, trips to the pizza place, movies in the theater, trips to the pool, etc.
Then, once a week on "payday," my kids would trade in tickets for privilege coupons. They had fun using math in the real world, as they counted and added and subtracted and planned their goals.
I had fun, too, randomly and occasionally awarding extra tickets for work above-and-beyond, for good attitudes, for being at the breakfast table on time, for coming the first time I called, for taking initiative, for putting others first, and other small pleasantries.
It all added up to a workable system for keeping the house clean (enough) and having fun rewarding ourselves for it. Since the rewards also prompted us to spend time together one-on-one, on the kids' choice of activity, these rewards were win-win-win: happy kids, happy mom, clean house :-)!
Please share your ideas for no-cost rewards in the comments!