I've been praying for a creative way to address some 'issues' with the kids - not the least of which is their massive quantity of time playing, or thinking about, or talking about PlayStation or Wii or computer. My kids - at least my boys - are electronic junkies. I don't mind the electronics. What I mind is the significance they seem to be playing in the lives of my kids. I mean, they can't seem to think of much else, and if given a choice, they would almost certainly choose a screen-driven activity over an imagination-driven one. Very sad. My goal is not to eliminate it entirely. Simply to restrict the amount of time and to establish that it is an earned privilege rather than an entitlement.
My other issue has been the general degradation of their manners and behavior. I know some of it is a pretty normal 'boy' thing, but at times they are crossing the line between normal and obnoxious.
Well, you may remember about a year ago, we did a thing with pennies to encourage better bedtime behavior. It worked wonderfully until it became irrelevant - they established good bedtime habits and the pennies were no longer needed. Well, we have decided to revisit the pennies. Only this time, the deal has changed a bit. Instead of starting with 3 pennies in their jar, they start with zero. Their goal is to earn five pennies. Once they have five, they can trade their pennies in for PlayStation, Wii or computer time. We've also given them the option of trading their 5 pennies in for $1.00 that they can spend or save however they choose. We've laid out pretty clearly for them the things they may do to earn pennies - like being kind to each other, helping each other, helping in the kitchen after dinner, cleaning up when they're done playing, listening the first time they're asked to do something, etc. They can also lose pennies for bad behavior - excessive fighting, back talk, having to be told more than once, leaving messes (and thumb sucking...I'm bound & determined to help that boy give up his thumb!).
We talked to them about it tonight at dinner. We listened to their ideas for what could earn or lose pennies. We explained their options and their rewards. They were super excited, and started making plans for what they would play first, and what they would start saving money for and on and on. As soon as dinner was over, they hopped up, cleared the table, and started cleaning the kitchen. Sebastian did some dishwasher duties and some recycling. Isaac cleaned the table and chairs.
At bedtime, I gave the usual 5-minute warning. I didn't even have to ask them to clean up. As soon as I said 5 minutes until bedtime, Sebastian said, "Isaac, we have to clean up what we're done playing with so we can earn a penny." It was done in no time. By the time they went to bed tonight, they had each earned 3 pennies.
As for Meagan, she has sort of caught the helping bug. She helped with the dishes a bit, and she helped some in cleaning up toys in the boys' room. We figured she's a bit too young to really understand what the whole thing is about, but she likes putting pennies into a jar. So, if she's being good, she gets to put a penny in whenever the boys do. She seems to be pretty happy with that.