I Turned My Kids’ Lives Into A Game And Now They’re Better Behaved. These Are The Rules

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I have a method that is probably frowned upon by 50 percent of parents but I don’t give a toss because it works for me.

I have 2 sons and I have 2 electronic counters. The kind that doormen use to count people going in and out of a club. The ones I have are neat as they have a plus and a minus button on them and the readout goes up to 999.

They are stuck to our fridge and on the fridge is a sign with scores for everything I want them to work on. Currently it’s things like: “Be dressed and downstairs by 7:30 = 20 points,” “Put your coat, shoes and bag away when you come in from school without being asked = 20 points.” Stuff like that.

And then, there are the ad-hoc “minus points.” This is for stuff like them not saying please or thank you, eating with their mouths open, not covering their faces when they sneeze etc. etc. They don’t earn points for doing these things correctly as they should be doing them already by now, instead they lose points for not doing them.

The score keeping goes on all week from Saturday to Friday with the scores going up and down. At the end of the week, points are converted into … cold hard cash! E.g., 347 points = $3.47.

They don’t earn points for doing these things correctly as they should be doing them already by now, instead they lose points for not doing them.

For my 2, we have a rule of no sugary sweets in the week, no ice cream, cakes or anything like that, only at weekends. It starts on a Friday evening when I get out the treat box, set up a sweetshop with various prices and a checkout, and I play shopkeeper while they spend the money they’ve earned through their behavior during the week.

Personally I think they are learning a few things here. Earning money for completing tasks, saving up, the process of shopping, the maths involved, rewards for positives, losing out for negatives and not having enough money to get what they want as a consequence (the prices in my sweetshop can be quite steep!).

The kids absolutely love it and have made it a competition between them, but the real kicker is that I have to keep changing the board with new tasks for them to earn points because they learn them. They become habits and no longer require constant reminding from me, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

The whole points thing gives a quick and easy mechanism to incentivize various things throughout the week. It’s also easy for me to observe good behavior or positive traits I want to reinforce, such as one of them being kind, caring or empathizing and I can immediately say, “That was really good, well done, have 10 points” and likewise, when I need to have a consequence, it can be the dreaded minus points.

Yes, ultimately I’m rewarding with sweets, which is where I see many parents disagreeing with this method but it’s not just “well done have a chocolate,” there’s more to it than that and my kids are responding to it and enjoying the gamification so I’m sticking with it until it no longer works.

Isaac Hudson writes about parenting. Read more from Quora below:

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