Do you have a challenging child, or just want to curb some negative behaviors? The positive behavior rewards systems I am using, works well in my house. It provides structure and certainty which gives me less anxiety and stress. This system is something that can be used at an early and older age and it mimics the same rewards system that most elementary teachers use.
Setting up your system | Positive Behavior System
The first thing you need is a form of currency. We use poker chips. You can use marbles, or raffle tickets, but it needs to be something to be treated as a treasured prize. Assign 1, 5, 10, and 25 points to your system. This is easy for us as we use black chips are 1, white is 5, blue is 10, and red is 10. If using raffle tickets, make sure to use different colored ones, and for marbles, you can do colors, or different types of marbles.
Next, Find an old sauce jar or a mason jar to use as the “bank”. Also, find money pouches or something similar for the children to save their currency. I just use ziplock bags.
Then set up a “menu” that the children can see visibly at all times. Decide what they can “buy” with their currency” and for how much.
Discuss with partner how to reward the positive behavior. For instance, listening immediately to a request gets a black chip in my house. Eating all their dinner, brushing hair, taking a bath, etc gets a white chip. Completing a chore, task or act of kindness gets a blue chip, and the red chips for major accomplishments or bribery when needed.
Rules of the game | Positive Behavior System
You have to reward positive behavior immediately the first week. The kids must learn to trust the system first before you leave time between “pay outs”. I recommend carrying your currency on you at all times that week. Otherwise morning, afternoon, and nighttime payouts are necessary to reinforce the positive behavior.
- You have to thank the child for the positive behavior that you were pleased with when you hand them the chip. Each chip gets a thank you. “Thank you for brushing your hair without complaint this morning”. “I saw that you made your bed, thank you”. “I really appreciate it when you turn off the TV when asked”.
- You have to let the kids “cash out” immediately the first week as well in order to build trust. With the exception of TV or screen time. This can only be done during “free time”.
- Kids must place the currency in the “bank” before you can provide the prize. Instant gratification will give them a sense of control and get them excited about their new system, thus thinking about positive behavior. [Note – Screen time should be done in 30 minutes increments, so if they want an hour or two, they need to pay for each half hour].
- When they run out of chips, they can not cash out. No exceptions. Don’t feel sorry for them at all. They need to miss the things that are on the menu.
- You decide when to give chips. No exceptions. Remember, they are “thank you’s”. If they run out of chips, and start begging, or bartering for more, just say no. Again, no exceptions. This may not go as well for younger kids the first day or two, but by the end of the week they will trust that you will give chips when they have positive behavior.
- Do not take chips away. No exceptions. If needed put a “freeze” on spending their chips until a designated time, and/or after they complete some “community service” tasks.
Cash out Ideas | Positive Behavior System
This is really going to depend on your child’s age and needs but here are some that cover a variety of ages, and ideas of how to assign value. Choose the value that is best for you, but I recommend keeping screen time at 10 chips for a 30 minute block.
- TV/iPad/iPhone/Xbox time 30 mins | 10 chip
- Hot chocolate/ chocolate milk | 5 chips
- 3 pieces of Candy or 2 Cookies | 10 chips
- $20 bill | 20 Chips
- playdate/hang of choice | 50 chips
- music/movie/book download | 50 chips
- Skip a bath | 20 chips
- Dinner of choice | 20 chips
- Music chooser | 20 chips
- Laundry pass | 50 chips
- Sleepover/Party | 200+ chips
- Funday | 100+ Chips
- Choose your groceries | 50 chips
- Ride to/from activities |5 chips
- $50 in gas | 50 chips
- New toy under $20 | 20 chips
- New toy over $20 | 50 chips
- Monthly cellular bill | 100 chips
Community Service | Positive Behavior System
My children are addicted to their screens, so usually on a lazy day they will attempt to spend all their chips on TV or iPads. After the first two hour window, I make them take a break and tell them that the TV is in “freeze” until they conduct 2-3 “community service” tasks. These tasks I do not reward as their reward is to unfreeze the TV. But this can be take out trash, fold laundry, go make your siblings bed, take the dog for a walk, etc. This is useful to you, as you get to cross something small off your list, and sends the message that I have to give in order to get. It is also a way to discipline them after a rule violation. The dirtier the crime, the dirtier the time!
Bribery | Positive Behavior System
Bribery is not to be used when they come to you for chips, but when they already have chips, and need some incentive to put forth the extra effort. Depending on your child’s age or situation, this may be a better grade on a test, using manners while at a friends house, staying out of the principal’s office for a period of time, or going to bed early. Don’t over use the Bribery method or they will expect too much when they do things naturally. We want to encourage positive behavior naturally.
Other tricks + tips | Positive Behavior System
- Remember to give 2-3 times a day, which admittedly can be flat out exhausting in a busy day. Set a reminder in your phone or with Alexa so you don’t forget.
- Use the Screen Time app, or Circle by Disney or set a timer for screen time. Kids will absolutely take advantage when you are not paying attention.
- You want to get your kids to spend often, so they are incentivized to work harder on their positive behavior.
- Bribery is useful for major hurdles, such as completing school projects quickly.
Tweens + Teens | Positive Behavior System
The system can be tweaked to use for tweens + teens, but just use points. Physical items such as poker chips could be embarrassing. LOL. In fact, I highly recommend it simply to set expectations. This leaves less room for arguments over smaller things (clean room, laundry, being home on time, and helping around the house) and gives you opportunity to focus on the larger situations. If a violation of basic rules or behavior occurs, just freeze their spending. No rides/gas, no cellular data, or cash. Add in community service outside the house if that violation warrants it. I know of parents who will have their teens clean their neighbors yards, walk their dogs, and I’ve heard of an instance of teens cleaning out a chicken coop! Gross!
Again, hang up the cash out “menu”; but review it with them often so they have an opportunity to provide feedback. Obviously, remove screen time, but add in anything that costs money that is not essential. This helps them respect the time and money spent on their items. For instance, if they want a new shirt, shoes, cash for going to meet friends; then they should give up some points. Downloads, points. Cellular usage, points. Gas in the car, points. Cash on the card, points.
Also, increase the reward values, so instead of rewarding for brushing their teeth, just give a larger amount for being ready on time. But inflation stinks because, the cost of things should go up too. You may want to consider increasing the cost of rides to leisure activities or a tank of gas!
If a violation of a basic rule or behavior occurs, just freeze their spending. No rides/gas, no cellular data, or cash. Add in community service(s) outside the house if that violation warrants it. I know of parents who will have their teens clean their neighbors yards, walk their dogs, and I’ve heard of an instance of teens cleaning out a chicken coop! Gross!
Stay Confident and Strong | Positive Behavior System
Any positive behavior system that is as complex as this can be tiring at times. It can feel like a job. It is a job. As parents, we have to already remember so much, and this is even more. But I swear by the system. We’ve used it on and off for years. My kids are very independent minded and without this structure they end up not cooperating, and then ultimately tune us out. Then, we just end up frustrated and yelling at the kids ALL. THE. TIME. when the system is not in place. No one really has the energy for all that stress, so break the cycle and find that a positive behavior system is really worth the effort.
Good luck with the system and hang in there! You’re doing a good job and the long term reward as a parent is a confident capable adult!