Finding effective motivators to help children make positive choices and follow house rules can be challenging for many parents. If you’re tired of nagging and scolding and you’re looking for a positive option, a behavior point system may be the key to turning your discipline strategies around. Because the foundation of a point system relies on catching your child being good, this method can create positive changes in your parenting style, promises Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author.
Set Your Expectations
As you set the point system into motion, one of the first tasks will involve setting and defining your expectations. Write down the behaviors and actions you want from your child, giving priority to the most important items. Make another list of the behaviors and actions you want to discourage from your child, also prioritizing the most important items on the list. For the most effective system, start simple. You may wish to just include the top five of both positive and negative behaviors.
To institute the point system, each positive and negative behavior must have an assigned point. As your child engages in positive behaviors, you will award points and as your child makes mistakes with negative behaviors, you will deduct points from a running total. The most important behaviors carry the most point values and the least important behaviors carry the least point values. For example, “treating others respectfully” may carry five points while “making the bed” may carry just one point.
Create the Rewards
Design the reward system that your child will use to purchase with points. You have many options for rewards, according to your own principles and your family style. For example, if you’d rather avoid rewarding your child with a physical gift, you could instead choose to provide intangible rewards such as a picnic in the park or a trip to the zoo. If you prefer different rewards, you could create a treasure chest of small prizes for your child to choose when she earns enough points.
Using the System
Once you’ve set your expectations, assigned points and created the rewards, you’re ready to institute the point system. Explain the system to your child so that he can understand the premise. Simply put, if your child works hard to perform these point-worthy behaviors, he will earn specific points. If he makes mistakes in behaviors, he will have points subtracted. When he earns a specific number of points, he can cash them in to earn a reward.
Point System Hints
The Center for Effective Parenting, with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, suggests daily tallying of points so a child receives regular feedback about how she is doing. At these times, you should give your child encouragement and positive comments about her behaviors. If your child has problems with points subtracted, discuss it briefly and then move on. Keep track of the points and give your child an opportunity to cash them in for a reward as often as possible. Preschool children may need daily opportunities to cash in points; whereas, elementary children may successfully wait to cash in after several days or a week.