It was one of those painful mornings. Up late, up during the night, up early in the morning, repeated for days. I was exhausted, and emotional about it. No amount of Diet Dr Pepper was going to give me the amount of energy and patience I needed to face my kids for the day. We needed a change. I needed a new game plan. But with no energy, and very sleepy brain, I needed something easy and quick. Something that I could put together from items around the house. There's no way I had the stamina it would take to corral these crazy kids, and haul them with me to the grocery store in search of some amazing treat or prize that would bribe them into behaving themselves. It was in these moments of desperation, I got onto my knees and prayed for some sort of inspiration.
I went back to my day. As I was taking care of routine tasks, I had a thought come to my mind. My mom has told me in the past, when I was struggling with a particularly surly child, "Catch them being good." That felt impossible. The house was a mess, and all they did was quarrel with each other. But in that moment, I realized I'd been focusing on all the negative going on in the house, and not noticing all the many positive things my children were doing.
I needed some rewards for good behavior, but the old Halloween candy and allowance money definitely wasn't working anymore. The candy just got them hyped up, and I was not ready to commit to paying my children exorbitant amounts when I would much rather commit that money to other things. I decided it was time for a happy focus and I was going to hold our family's first Awards Dinner. Maybe they were feeling under appreciated, too?
I made up little paper awards to recognize good behavior. These would also act as tools to keep the regular fights at bay. For example, one of the awards was "Best Behaved and Helpful in the Car." The perk for this award was that they could pick where they wanted to sit in the car for a full week. This would help eliminate fighting about where they were sitting in the car, and help the behavior, because the winner would get to pick the next week. WIN, WIN!! Another award: "Best pool helper." Believe it or not, my kids all fight over who gets to swipe the pool key every time we go for a swim. The winner of this award would get to swipe the pool key and be the first person in the pool.
I made enough awards so each child would get one award each. With the awards made, I started to get excited about presenting this new family system. Instead of dreading dinner time, I dressed the table up a little fancier than normal and held the ceremony after we were finished eating. To my surprise, the kids loved it!! We applauded each child when they were recognized for the award, and tried to make a big deal about each person.
The behavior began to improve as they were recognized for the good they were doing, and for me it completely changed the way I was viewing my household. There really were kind things going on in our home, I had just been missing them before. It's also amazing how far a little praise, positive thinking and recognition can go.
We've been doing this for a few months now, and even though I may forget, they remind me every week to do the awards. I've posted pictures of the awards so you can see others we've used. "Sweet, Sweet, Sweet" is a big favorite. This award gives the right to pick what dessert the family should have on Sunday night. They receive this one when they have been extra sweet in helping mom and/or dad.
Ok, so the big trick about these rewards is you don't want to give yourself any extra work. We are already running ragged, why would be add one more thing to our plates?!! For me to be consistent, these rewards had to be natural things we were already doing. Such as, "Picking out the movie to watch on Sunday". Not at the movie theater, just the regular, whatever DVD's or DVR'd shows we have in the house. We were already doing it anyway. This just eliminated the fight over who gets to pick. Another example: "Peacemaker on Outings." This award lets the child got pick a treat at the grocery store at the check out. My kids are always asking for treats when we shop. This made it an easy way for me to hold the demands at bay. Unless you have the award (or your own money), no treat. And if you beg for one, you can bet you're not going to be winning an award for "Peacemaker on Outings" at the next Award Dinner.
This past week we decided to swap out a few of the awards for new ones. I asked for the kids' input this time and had them help me decide what we should add and which old ones they weren't too sad to replace.
I hope this system will give you some ideas of what might help your family find some more happiness and peace. It's giving me a little more sanity..... for now. What awards would you add? Any other systems that have helped you with the petty fights in your home?