Kat thought it would be interesting for me to write a little bit about the rewards system at the Reynolds. As any parent knows, there are tonsof great ideas out there. We have given many of them a shot, but honestly, it’s hard to find something that really works well. We eventually came up with something that in no way is monumental or brilliant, but perhaps the fundamentals behind it are what have made it work, or shall I say, at least endure much longer than anything else we’ve done. We call it “Cool Points”.
So I went out to the shop and built from wood a small 8 compartment box – (this was before our recent surprise baby #9 – and yes, you’d think by now we’d have figured out how to avoid surprises) – I found some little marble sized cedar balls and put them all in the middle. Each of the 8 children has one of the 8 compartments around the outside, and they can be awarded with cool points, which means they get to pull a cedar ball from the middle and put it into their respective boxes. When they get 10 cool points,they can either choose something from the cool point bin (huge candy bars, toys, etc.), or have 5 dollars added to their account. Like I said, this is not rocket science. Teachers have been doing reward boxes for good behavior longer than anybody reading this has been alive.
Rook and Tigue helping Sade get her swimming suit on
But there is something kind of unique about the way we manage cool points that seems to make it work better for us, and it is that this is not a “compensation” system. The kids do not “earn” cool points by doing things they are asked to do. We don’t pay them or bribe them with cool points (not that we are above bribing). Kids can not ask for cool points in exchange for their services – though they try – and we never say “if you do X you can have a cool point”. Cool points are awarded completely at our discretion when they do kind things that are completely motivated by their own initiative. Tay may change a diaper without being asked, Tigue might make Rook’s bed, or Payte might take Fife into a room and play with him for a while. Tagg may write a nice note to somebody, or we may hear that Dak stood up for somebody at school that was being teased. These are the kinds of things for which we award cool points, and it is completely at our discretion and generally pretty unpredictable. One day something may earn the child a cool point, while another day it might not. The whole idea is for the children to look for ways to show kindness and serve others. Sometimes they are rewarded with cool points, but hopefully they are always rewarded with the positive feelings that come from serving one another.
Reese and Reese bringing in firewood
We do enjoy watching them when we award a child a cool point. Rook may go into the bedroom and clean up Sade’s mess and get a cool point, and suddenly Tigue is bustling about washing stools with a dry rag as conspicuously as possible, frequently glancing at her mom to see if her service merits the coveted reward. So we do get some of that, but generally it’s a pretty effective system to teach the kids to recognize opportunities to serve and take action, and recognize the positive feelings that come from selfless thoughtfulness.
Not that we don’t do the work/reward system as well. We do have a long price list of things kids can do to earn money, but that is separate from cool points, as each scheme is aimed at reinforcing different things. Of course we want them to learn work ethic, saving, and the value of money, Dak recently had a hard lesson about how easy it is to squander hard earned money on momentary urges – that was a hard day for him when he realized his siblings accounts were in the hundreds while his had dwindled to $36.25 thanks to a temporary interest in some particular action figures. Was hard to see, and a tough night for Dak, but better to learn now, as they say. No surprise yesterday when he cashed in his 10 cool points he chose the $5 bucks.
Anyway, there you have it, Cool Points – that’s what works for us, and has actually stood the test of time.
All the kids help out with Fife