I recently shared the concept describing Five Things I Did to Help My Kids, Help Me. Before I sat down and figured out I had all the help I needed right in my own home, I was being run ragged, and my kids were fast becoming entitled couch potatoes. Seeing summer break approach like a runaway train, I knew I would have to come up with something fast, or else I would be spending three miserable months at home with unruly, bored kids.
As I mentioned in this Top 5 list, I came up with a new behavior modification strategy I called the “Ticket System.” This was in order to get them excited about the new things I was attempting to instill. Everyone needs an incentive, right?
So, what is the ticket system?
With just a little bit of planning, and the purchase of a roll of carnival tickets (which I bought at U.S. Toy in Apopka, but are also available at WalMart, Dollar Tree, etc.), you’re well on your way. I recommend a different color per child to ensure there’s no chance of them stealing each other’s tickets. And no temptation either…
One of the best parts? It’s a One Size Fits All solution you can tailor to your own house rules. Think “Chuck-E-Cheese”, or any of the other kids-gone-wild places. You go, play games. Game spits out tickets. Tickets are cashed in for prizes. My system is similar to this, however, rather than winning cheap prizes (that ultimately will just end up in the trash can), I created a list of incentives and privileges they earn by collecting tickets.
A Few Guidelines:
Decide what you will pay tickets for and what you will not pay tickets for. Make a visible Chart/List — a “Menu” so to speak. A good rule of thumb in parenting from my mentor Dr. Crystal Evans: “Don’t make a rule you can’t, won’t, or don’t have the energy to enforce.” For example, I do not pay for regular chores. The things I “pay out” for are things above and beyond their chores. You’ll be amazed at how they will start asking for extra work in order to earn more tickets! If you haven’t already established regular chores, you may need to pay out, just long enough for your little ones to understand what is expected.
EXCEPTION, (this happens a lot right now in our house,) one of my kids likes to clean a lot more than the other. So, my son figured out that he can pay his sister to do them for him. Out of his own ticket stash, of course. (When one child pays the other some of their own tickets, I have them initial the back in their own handwriting.)
We also pay A LOT of tickets for good report cards, and other things that the kids have to do but are very unpleasant. Like when my son has to take out his prosthetic eye to clean it (which he hates to do) or when my daughter has to get a needle for her regular blood work she has to do.
Make it Visual. Kids often need a visual for things to click so I made a chart of things/behaviors that could earn them tickets, and how many tickets it would earn them. I did not limit my list to housework. Actually there are many things I want them to learn like, preferring others above themselves. Or doing something for someone else. Or first time obedience. That way I “catch them” doing good. It does give me a quick go-to when I see them really go out of their way in a positive way. Especially when unprompted by me or my husband.
The fun part. Rewards and Incentives. I made and posted a price list of things that could be easily “purchased” right away, or others where the tickets would need to be saved (just like the “real world!”). Right away incentives include: 15 mins of staying up past their bedtime. Or going for an ice cream. Or getting to pick what we cook for dinner. Saved for incentives include getting to buy a new video game/toy they really want.
For example, in December, my daughter “bought” an American Girl doll. It was such an awesome moment when she counted her tickets and realized she finally had enough to buy it! She was THRILLED! The roots of this hard-earned lesson are going to go deep. And already have. She takes better care of that Saige doll than any of her other toys. Why? Because she paid a high price for it.
The Painful Truth — Negative Consequences. YES, my kids do have to occasionally pay back tickets when they make the choice to disobey, or hurt someone physically, or damage someone else’s property. It’s always a choice they have, but they will learn that each choice comes at a price. Either sowing positive seeds, or negative ones. So, there is another chart/list of things/behaviors that can and will get them tickets taken away. And to add insult to the injury, sometimes, if there is an action done against the other (for instance, hitting) that child must not only lose tickets, but they are handed over to the one they hit as part of the restitution process.
The End Result. My kids were SO EXCITED the first day I sat them down and talked about the ticket system, and they immediately began getting creative to earn tickets. There was instant gratification for everyone because they immediately saw their ticket bags get fuller and fuller.
If your children are younger, there are also other options. My friend Erika came up with a similar strategy with her 4-year-old, with just a few adjustments and it works amazingly well!
Tell us — do you have a system like this in place at your house?