Reward & Responsibility System
The saying. ”If I fish for you, you eat for a day. If I teach you to fish, you eat for a lifetime.” It is a long time favorite of mine and so the fact this system is built around this quote just makes it even more special to me!
While I have always tried to teach them to be responsible and independent, I felt it was time to move to a system of sorts…one that could begin to introduce the concept of money via saving, spending, and giving. I wanted to have responsibilities for which the kids were expected to do without compensation, and ones for which they could earn a small amount of money for completing.
A responsibilities chart is a job chart that teaches kids to take responsibility for themselves, their belongings, to help around the house and ultimately be good citizens
What’s important about a job chart is that kids get to track their performance, see their improvement and feel wonderful about themselves. Parents feel great, too, because jobs get done with less supervision and less nagging.
Having a reward chart simply means that for each goal, job or task completed, a reward is given. The rewards for a reward chart should always be whatever is meaningful for the child.
Rewards never need to be elaborate when using a job chart. A hug and a few words of praise are often just as appreciated as a tangible reward, such as an increase in allowance or a special treat.
So it’s vital to teach kids how to be responsible and follow through, and if they don’t, hold them accountable. But how can you do it effectively?
6 Ways to Teach Responsibility Today
Start as early as possible: As early as you can in your child’s life, start having them take responsibility for the things with which they’re involved. For instance, have your child pick up his toys before he goes to bed. Now, if he has a hard time concentrating on that because he’s young, get down on the floor and pick them up with him. But don’t do it for him. Even if you do “I’ll do one then you do one,” he learns to take care of his responsibilities. I also think you should give kids mild alarm clocks early in life. This helps them learn the responsibility of setting the clock at night and then getting up and shutting it off. What you’re doing is teaching them from a young age that they’re an individual and that they have their own individual responsibilities.
Identify responsibilities and use responsible language: When your child completes a task, tell them, “Nice way to follow through on your responsibility.” “I like the way you took care of that responsibility.” “You know, it’s your responsibility to do that and I like that you did it.” Use language like that. Say, “You know, I’m rewarding you because you met your responsibility.” In other words, the more you identify it, the more conscious your child becomes of it. I think it’s important for them to understand they’re getting rewarded for completing their responsibility, not for being cute, loveable or chummy. The earlier you connect the reward to the responsibility, the more clearly that becomes associated in your child’s mind.
The Power of Example: It’s important as a parent to meet your own responsibilities on a consistent basis, and to label it when you do. So you can say, “My responsibility is to go to work and I’m doing it today.” If your child asks, “Where are you going, Mommy?” Say, “I’m going to work. That’s my responsibility.” Or if they ask, “Where are you going, Dad?” Say, “I’m going grocery shopping. That’s my responsibility.” The idea is that you’re modeling the right behavior. You’re a prime example. As a parent, when you tell your child you’re going to do something, it becomes your responsibility to do it. So, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be a prime example to your child when meeting responsibilities and be sure to use that language.
Teach and Coach Responsibility: I think it’s important to sit down and explain to children what responsibility means. Responsibilities are like commitments or promises—they’re the things you have to do, the things that are your job, and the things you’re involved in, where other people are depending on you. So if you play with your toys, it’s your responsibility to put them away. Or with an older child, you can say “If you make a sandwich for yourself, it’s your responsibility to put the dishes in the dishwasher.”
Accountability: Responsibility should be associated with both rewards and consequences. “This is your reward for doing your schoolwork and homework.” “This is your reward for keeping your room neat all day.” “You’re getting this reward because you cleaned the car.” And by the same token, “This is the consequence for not finishing your homework.” “This is the consequence for not doing your chores this morning.” “You’re getting this consequence because you didn’t clean your room.”
It’s sometimes helpful for parents to sit with their kids and draw up a list of consequences. How can you hold kids accountable? What do you have? You can withhold things like electronics. You can assign extra chores or extra work. You can give them task-oriented consequences. Associate a task with the time that the consequence is in play. And at the same time, come up with a list of rewards. We call this a “rewards menu.” Ask them, “What do they like to do?” This shouldn’t only involve spending money or buying things. Does your child like to take walks? Do they like to go to the park? Do they like to go down by the river or the ocean? Do they like to play catch? Do they like to swing? It’s fine to say to your child, “You know, you did really well today. I’m going to take you down and swing you in the swings.” And that’s the reward. Rewards don’t have to be expensive—you just have to use your imagination. For older kids, you can go hiking, go downtown, go by the river, go to the park. For teens, you can let them earn later bedtimes, or more time with their friends. With adolescents, the reward is getting away from you, not being with you.
Tell Your Kids What You’ll be Doing Differently: Learning how to meet responsibilities is one of the most important skills kids can acquire when they’re young. Certainly as they grow older, this learning will snowball and by the time they’re adults, they’ll have a thorough understanding of the relationship between responsibilities and accountability. Kids who don’t learn to meet responsibilities at an early age need to learn them at whatever age the parents get ready to teach it.
When a parent decides they’re going to start using more responsibility/accountability language when they talk with their kids, they should sit down and clearly state that fact. In a calm time, say to your kids individually, “From now on, I’m going to start to point out how we meet responsibilities around here. So, you’ll have a clearer idea of how many responsibilities I meet and why I think it’s important that you meet your responsibilities.”
With pre-teens and teens, you should have a discussion about why meeting responsibilities is important to your success in life. People who don’t meet their responsibilities are not successful. Now what does “not successful” mean? Well, for adults it could mean a range of things, but when you’re talking to a teenager or a middle school child, “not successful” means they’re not going to be able to afford an IPod. They’re not going to have their own car or have nice clothes. In other words, “All the things that I buy for you as a parent, you’re going to have to get for yourself someday. And in order to do that, you’re going to have to be able to meet responsibilities just like I do. And if I didn’t meet my responsibilities of going to work and doing a good job, I would not be able to give you those things.” Explain the idea with simple, straight talk that progresses from “This is why responsibilities are important” to “here’s what’s going to happen if you do—or if you don’t—achieve them.”
When kids develop personal responsibility, it gives them their best chance of avoiding many of the pitfalls of life that await them if they’re not careful. If they’re not aware of what’s going on and ready to take responsible action to deal with it, it makes them less able to deal with problems that surface as they get older. It seems that when you’re a kid, around every corner there’s someone saying, “You didn’t make your bed. You didn’t finish your homework” Or ‘Why didn’t you walk the dog? How come the dishes are in the sink?” But believe me, around every corner as an adult there’s someone saying, “Why were you driving so fast? Why are you late for work? Why didn’t you pick up the kids at school? I thought you were going stop for milk on the way home.”
Parenting is arguably the most difficult job on
this planet; it is monetarily unpaid, but intrinsically
more rewarding than any other job. We all found out
the moment we held our sweet babies in our arms
and spilled tears of genuine awe on their wrinkly red
faces that there is no blueprint, no book for dummies,
and no magic theory for parenting. Raising children is
one of the most selfless acts, but the joy we gain from
it makes it ironically so selfish. And then suddenly
they aren’t children anymore, but rather participat
-ing adults in our intricate society. My, how time flies.
We have but a finite time to do our job…and ultimate
ly, responsible children morph into responsible adults.
But of course it’s just not that simple! How do we
do it? How do we raise responsible kids? We cer
tainly don’t claim to be experts in parenting. (Is
there really such a thing?) We are so far from
it! We have, however, found a system that works
for our family and we want to share it with you.
Please don’t get discouraged…our goal is not perfection, it’s being realistic. It takes about two or three weeks for it to become truly easy, and even then, it is still
a parent’s responsibility to keep it going. The lessons it
teaches are crucial to raising responsible children…who
will inevitably become responsible adults. The lessons are
indeed important, but the most wonderful gift of this system is that it mandates family time, family cooperation,
and brings back the importance of family
May these words inspire you to turn to your child and say something like:
1. You are loved
2. You make me smile
3. I think about you when we’re apart.
4. My world is better with you in it.
5. I will do my best to keep you safe.
6. Sometimes I will say no.
7. I have faith in you.
8. I know you can handle it.
9. You are creative.
10. Trust your instincts.
11. Your ideas are worthwhile.
12. You are capable.
13. You are deserving.
14. You are strong.
15. You can say no.
16. Your choices matter.
17. You make a difference.
18. Your words are powerful.
19. Your actions are powerful.
20. Your emotions may be powerful.
21. And you can still choose your actions.
22. You are more than your emotions.
23. You are a good friend.
24. You are kind.
25. You don’t have to like what someone is saying in order to treat them with respect.
26. Someone else’s poor behavior is not an excuse for your own.
27. You are imperfect.
28. So am I.
29. You can change your mind.
30. You can learn from your mistakes.
31. You can ask for help.
32. You are learning.
33. You are growing.
34. Growing is hard work.
35. I believe you.
36. I believe in you.
37. You are valuable.
38. You are interesting.
39. You are beautiful.
40. When you make a mistake you are still beautiful.
41. Your body is your own.
42. You have say over your body.
43. You are important.
44. Your ideas matter.
45. You are able to do work that matters.
46. I see you working and learning every day.
47. You make a difference in my life.
48. I am curious what you think.
49. How did you do that?
50. Your ideas are interesting.
51. You’ve made me think of things in a completely new way.
52. I’m excited to see what you do.
53. Thanks for helping me.
54. Thank you for contributing to our family.
55. I enjoy your company.
56. It’s fun to do things with you.
57. I’m glad you’re here.
58. I’m happy to talk with you.
59. I’m ready to listen.
60. I’m listening.
61. I’m proud of you.
62. I’m grateful you’re in my life.
63. You make me smile.
64. I love you