Friday, October 8, 2010

Turn on a dime

My children are generally well behaved. Yes, they have there moments, as all children do, but over all they mind well. Except...

We have been having this issue of "blowing mom off". I ask Eliana to do something and she willingly leaves the room to go do it. Five minutes later I go check to see if it is done and Eliana is doing something totally unrelated. I offer a gentle reminder about what the original task was and leave her to get to work. After checking back, the task is still uncompleted and I offer a stern warning. And so it goes for ten times longer than it should to get things done. I find this endlessly aggravating.

Part of the problem is me. Eliana is 4. A VERY distractable 4 with two little sisters who add to the problem. Sometimes I need to give her a task and remove all "obstacles" (read: sisters) from her path so she can concentrate on finishing the job. But part, a large part, of this problem is with Eliana blowing me off and just not doing what she is asked to do.

We have threatened and bribed, taken away privileges and toys, gone to bed early missed out on fun and while all of these seem to make a point, the behavior has not changed. We just couldn't seem to find her currency, that is, until we tried currency.

My friend Jenny is a wonderful mom of two boys. She instituted a "commissions" program in her house. I liked the idea but hadn't gotten around to tweaking it to fit our home and children. Now, properly motivated, I have instituted our own "pay for play" program.

Here is how it works: At the beginning of every day the girls get 3 dimes. Why every day? Well, my other friend Jen reminds her daughter that "His mercy's are new every morning" and I like that idea. I also think that Elie is big enough to understand how money works. When I ask her to do something, I set the timer and let her know how long she has. If the task remains uncompleted, I assume that she wants to pay me to do it for her. Some tasks cost more than others. At the end of the week she can count out her dimes, swap them for dollars and off we go to the store/ice cream shop/bank. If she runs out of dimes I start taking toys which she has to buy back from me before she can spend her money on anything else. She is welcome to spend her dimes on TV time too. More dimes can be earned if Eliana asks for extra work to do, things above and beyond what is normally expected of her.

I like this system for a couple of reasons: first, it is like real life. As adults we always have the choice to pay someone else to do a task we don't wish to complete. Secondly, it is immediate, not "you lost your dessert privilege after dinner tonight" which seems to loose impact. Third, it teaches Eliana how to work with money a lesson MANY adults could use.

So far this seems to be working, I am not sure how it will pan out for the long haul. One thing I have learned about parenting: just because it is currently working doesn't mean it always will. There is a lot of value to being able to think on you feet.


Jennifer McHam said...

I love it! I may be adapting my strategy!!

Sarah said...

Love it! Would love to see little Elie's face when that dime is taken back. Priceless :-)