Wednesday, December 26

Child Incentive Jars

A little off topic with Christmas just yesterday. But I figure part of traditional Christmas is encouraging children to be good, "you better not pout..." naughty and nice list and all that. So it sorta works ;-)

My husband and I were struggling with two problems. Our five year old wanting to play video games all the time and his misbehavior in general.

Tristian has some heavily autistic symptoms and behavior- but without an easy diagnosis because one, we don't know what's related to the medical problems or treatments; and two, I didn't realize he was displaying autistic symptoms for years so retaught him more normal behaviors (like eye contact and not being obsessed with puzzles to the exclusion of everything else) that make a clear cut diagnosis even harder then diagnosing autism is already. This can make discipline and discussions often shaky ground for us.

Here's the solution we came up with for both problems :)

We used repurposed jars from our wedding (we are working on the pack rat issue, I promise!), foam letters and bells.

We labeled the jars 'GAME TIME' & 'LOST TIME'. Each bell stands for one minute of video game time. Each day starts with 30 bells/minutes per jar. If the child does something really good (is a great helper, shares a favorite toy, etc per age) they can earn a minute from lost into game, if they do something not good, they can loose a game minute.

This effectively caps video game time per day at an hour tops (and gets rid of the 'why can't I play longer!?' questions and arguments)- while creating a hands on, visual & audio reinforced incentive system.

 At the end of the day we count the bells & discuss what was good and what needed improvement. Then we write tomorrow's game time on a dry erase board. The bell idea was holiday inspired (bells found in Christmas section of dollar tree in nine packs) but I love the audio effect they add!

I was very concerned with how Tristian would react to this concept. It's hard to predict what's going to cause a total emotional breakdown sometimes, and I could see loosing bells as being a trigger. Thankfully this wasn't the case. Instead of breaking down Tristian actually  immediately equated the loss of bells with meaning he needed to change what he was doing. With almost no fuss. I was completely floored (still am). When a behavior occurs that means a bell lost we both go to his room and move the bell from the game time jar to the lost time jar. We discuss what he should have done and I remind him that he can earn bells back for doing something especially nice or well.

This has worked better then we could have hoped!

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