Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Penny Parenting (Rewards for kids)

I'm so glad that we serve a God of rewards! He doesn't just reward belief with Eternal life, He rewards a life well lived with an easier time here on earth, and Crown in eternity. He rewards suffering with a special intimacy with Him, and with a special rule on the new earth.

I'm trying to be a Mom of rewards too. When my children behave well, I want to remind them, "Hey, you did the right thing there -- good job!". And when they go out of their way to do something extra, I want to acknowledge that. After all, life works that way (when I put in extra time at work, I get overtime, a raise and/or a special award), and God works that way. Why shouldn't my family?

But I don't want to go overboard either -- where my kids have no internal motivation to do what is right when I'm not there offering a tangible reward. I'll bet there's a balance there somewhere. But I haven't found it yet.

Right now, though, here's something that's working for us. The kids call it the "penny game". Each kid gets a cup of ten pennies in the morning. Mom has a bowl of pennies. Every time I catch them going out of their way to be kind, share or do something to help out, they get to pick a penny out of Mom's bowl, and add it to their cup. Every time they have a bad attitude or are mean to each other, they give Mom a penny. At the end of the day, each penny buys a mini chocolate chip (or five pennies buy a piece of Halloween candy that's still in a basket on top of the fridge). Every day is new -- the pennies (or lack thereof) don't carry over.

We don't do this every day. Although maybe we should. Generally, we do it once a week or so. I'm always surprised and impressed how motivating this is.

My oldest (who's six) is the most affected. The pennies come out, and he spends the day looking for ways to get extra pennies. He sweeps the kitchen, then washes the floor, then washes the dishes, then asks if he can help the littler ones do a craft, and on and on.

The second focuses more on not losing pennies, since attitude is hard for her to control, she's discovered that when she throws a fit over losing a penny, then she loses another. She's learned that if she's feeling extra sad, she can go sit in her bed to calm down, and she won't lose another penny for it.

The third, who is two, feels so bad for others when they are sad over losing a penny that she starts giving hers away. Ahem. I don't know what to do about that -- should I allow it or not?

I don't let the 18-month-old-boy-with-a-record-of-eating-pennies participate. The last thing we need is another penny-removal-from-throat surgery because of Mom's silly rewards.

Rewarding my kids reminds me to thank my Father for the extra blessings He's given us lately. He's rewarding Chester's hard work with a really nice looking house. He's rewarding my patience with my hard-working hubby by allowing Chester to understand my request that he kick it down a notch and be home more. And he's rewarding Chester's being home more with special play times with the kids. He even rewards the thankless activities by promising that He, indeed, sees them (Matthew 6). I know that He acknowledges how many messy diapers I've changed today, even if no one else cares.

Yes, Thank you Lord for motivating us we rewards, both now and in Eternity.

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  1. I love the penny idea--and you got me wondering if it would work with my three...!

    THank you for sharing!

  2. I love this idea! i have to print it out!! it's awesome! esp. the 18 month old.. mine eats drywall.. i can see pennies being similar! lol