Thursday, March 17, 2011

Point System Details

A few people have mentioned wanting to try a system like I've talked about, and while I did share some details, I wasn't really all that detailed in my description. I thought I would share the particulars with those who are interested.

First and foremost, the point system works on pointing out things that kids do that are both positive, and negative. You can tailor it to help work on specific behaviors- whether encouraging specific behavior, or discouraging specific behavior. It was introduced to us through our youngest daughter's school. She has Asperger's Syndrome, and the school finds that this system works better with kids who need more social and behavioral guidance than the majority of the school.

First thing you really want to do, is start a list of behavior- both good and bad. With us, we had fighting kids, screaming kids, chore avoidance, etc. We listed what we wanted to stop- the negative behavior. Then we listed what we wanted to see- doing chores without repeated remindings, helping each other out, talking instead of screaming, etc.
Once we had our list of things we wanted to stop seeing, and the things we wanted to start seeing, we had a good idea of what the worst problems were in the house. Some things we listed, I hadn't even realized were happening as much as they were until we thought about it- it helps if both parents are involved in this process, as some things may bother one parent more than the other.
After I had a list of behavior, I had to set the rules. Would a single infraction cost them a point? Or did they get a warning first? If so, how many warnings? We decided that 1 warning was sufficient. If you see the kids doing something from the negative list, you give them a warning- "Please don't do that," "Please stop", etc.
One of the main reasons we realized we needed a change, was because we found that in response to the kids, we were often resorting to screaming ourselves just to be heard over the kids, or to get them to listen. And really, who wants to spend their evenings screaming?
So, to that point, we decided that we would not scream if we saw negative behavior. If the kids opted not to listen to the warning, then we would tell them that they lost a point. If the behavior continues (and we've only had 1 instance where it has), we take the child aside and ask them to either calm down, or take a bedroom time out, on their own.
I also think it's important not to label the behavior as "bad", because all too often, the kids then think that because what they are doing is "bad", they must be bad as well.  So, for that, I label the behavior negative and positive, since those two words don't carry the recognition that "bad" or "good" carry.

Once we decided on the warnings, I had to decide on the points. Gillian's school does a max of 25 each day. I thought it might be better to start smaller, so we have a max of 10. We start the children right in the middle, at 5 points each. From there, they earn or lose points based on their behavior and actions of the day.
I did have a few rules when it comes to points:
  1. You can not lose points from prior days- if you earned 10 points yesterday, they are yours to keep, regardless of what happened today.
  2. Points are awarded or lost 1 at a time, unless it's an extreme instance, but never more than 2 are removed at a time. This is for us as much as for them- it prevents us from totally losing our own cool, and removing all of their points over something in the heat of the moment.
  3. You can not go into negative points. IE: if you have 1 point and lose it, you can't lose anymore that day unless you earn them first. That isn't to say we might not be disappointed if negative behavior continues, though.
  4. Points can only be "spent" once a week, on the weekends.
  5. Each child is in charge of their chart. While we keep track of the points each day, they are in charge of writing their points down at the end of the evening.
  6. Points that are not written down the day before are gone. We did help them out the first week, but we are trying to teach them to be responsible for their own points. Last night was the first night I did not record the points for the kids who forgot, and as a result, Chris and Raegan did not receive any points.
These rules are in place to help the kids realize that their actions have rewards and consequences, but also help them learn that they can't be punished yesterday for something that happened today (IE: removing yesterdays points because of something they did today).
Once we had some footing on what the points rules would be, we had to come up with a value- what are they worth? What is the "point" of collecting them? Without a purpose, then what are the kids trying to do better for?
I started thinking small. Gillian asks every now and then if she can get a shake from McDonalds, and I thought that might be a great place to start. Below is my list of rewards- they may change over time, but I thought overall, they fit good with our kids.

25 points- A small shake from McDonalds40 points- $5.0075 points- A movie ticket75 points- $10.00100 points- dinner out with a parent of your choice, at the location of your choice.

While there are some items on the list, I felt that the cash rewards would help with anything else the kids may want to get. I also encourage them to save their points up longer for bigger items. Raegan is saving up to get 2 movie tickets, so she can take a friend to the movies. Chris is saving up for cash for a new video game. Gillian isn't sure yet what she wants.
One important thing to keep in mind, is that point rewarding or taking away should happen while the kids are doing whatever it is that is giving or taking points away. If you want to reinforce the positive, and not encourage the negative, you have to address it while it is happening. If you wait until later, they might not fully realize the significance of the removal or rewarding.
Once Nick and I talked back and forth, changed some things, and fully agreed on the new system, we called a family meeting. We don't often have full, sit down, family meetings, so it was a bit unusual to them.
We discussed each point, and listened to the kids when they made suggestions, or asked questions.
I stressed that some specific things would not effect points. Mostly, grades. We also stressed that while some chore aspects are listed on the positive/negative list, they were not being rewarded for doing the chores specifically.
We agreed that chores needed to be done by a set time- 6pm on school days, noon on days off. That was more to address the overall slacking all 3 kids had gotten into the habit of, more so than doing the chores themselves. I have been awarding points since then if they do get the chores done before 6pm, which wasn't on the list, but I think will remain.
We also stressed that if we saw behavior, positive or negative, that was not on the list, we were still able to reward or remove based on that. The list was made to give them each a general idea of what changes we wanted to see, but that it's also there to help make a larger positive change in the whole family.
Here's a list of the specifics in our family that we wanted to change.
  • Being respectful towards your siblings
  • picking up after yourself
  • helping without being asked
  • helping your siblings when they want help
  • listening to your parents or siblnings
  • behaving in an appropriate manner
  • going to bed good on school nights.
  • Stomping through the house when angry
  • Running through the house (Chris and Gilly generally run full speed ahead when moving from room to room)
  • Screaming instead of using your words
  • Threatening physical violence
  • Being violent- hitting, kicking, chasing in anger, etc
  • Bossing people around
  • Interuptting or not listening when a parent or sibling talks
  • Not finishing your chores before 6pm on school nights, and noon on non-school days
  • Being disrespectful to a parent or sibling
  • Worrying about sibling chore status, game time, etc. Worry about your own actions.
  • Not going to bed on school nights.
With several of those, the behavior has improved dramatically. Here are some of the specific problems we have with each child.
  • Threatening physical violence. When angry, her first response is "Can I hit/kick/kill/stab him/her?" She obviously knows the answer is no, but it was something we hated hearing, and hated having her say. SInce we started, I think I've only heard it once.
  • Stomping when angry- well, she IS almost 15. It has lessened.
  • Not finishing your chores- She was REALLY bad about this, and had many nights where she only started her chores at 10. She has improved greatly, and is usually working on them within minutes of arriving home now.
Chris - Chris is not yet diagnosed with Aspergers, but we are almost certain he IS an aspie, which creates some challenges in and of itself.
  • Running through the house- this has gotten better, but we do still have to remind him.
  • Screaming when angry- he usually goes from trying to talk to all out melting down and screaming when he's upset. He has gotten better, though it does occasionally happen still.
  • Bossing people around- he is very bad about telling everyone else what to do. This has improved greatly, as well.
  • Interupting or not listening- this is a big one with him and Gillian both. When he doesn't want to listen, he refuses to acknowledge someone at all, usually Gillian. It causes her to scream- but it's the exact opposite when HE wants to say something and SHE doesn't want to listen- he starts to melt down. This has improved quite a bit as well.
  • Not going to bed good- we still have times when he does not go to sleep when it's bed time. Not as bad, but we're still working on it.
  • Being violent- he hits Gillian out of anger a lot. It usually isn't hard, but he does do it purposely, and with her penchant for over reaction, it causes a global meltdown on both sides.
  • Worrying about time- He used to constantly monitor whether or not the girls had finished their chores, and if they had, did they spend 2 minutes too long playing on the computer, or watching TV? It was a 4 times a day argument. Now, it happens every now and then, but not often.
  • Running through the house- it's improved
  • Screaming- the same as with Chris- she has a lot of impulse control issues, so she tends to way over react and scream over little things, but it is getting better.
  • Interrupting or not listening- ditto to Chris. Same exact thing- she'll either purposely ignore him until he melts down, or she'll melt down because he's ignoring what she's saying. Both kids have a big problem just jumping in and interrupting what other people are talking about. It's improved.
  • Not finishing your chores- Gillian had a big problem with starting a chore, then drifting away- it was hard to keep track of whether or not she had actually finished the chores she was supposed to do, and more often than not, she didn't do them at all. She does still need some prodding along through the afternoon, but she is much more motivated to finish them.
  • Being disrespectful- Gillian loves to be funny. She has a decent sense of humor. However, she doesn't always know when to stop, or where to draw the line on what is funny, and what is rude. She is improving on this as well.

Over all, the kids are doing much better, and I find that Nick and I have to scream a LOT less- the only time we raise our voices is if they are upstairs and we need to get their attention.
I've also found that while they have improved in a lot of areas, I think a lot of it comes more from seeing it on the list, as a lot of the above behavior are things we have not had to address hardly at all. In fact, some things I hadn't even realized they stopped doing- running, bossing people around, worrying about time management, etc.

It is still fairly early in the game. The kids have been doing their current chart for 11 days. However, I am pleased with the change in the kids. It's been a fairly positive change compared to what we normally see around here.
I also made up charts- I just made up a 4 column table in a word document. In the first column, it has DATE, with the dates listed under it. In the second column, it has POINTS, and they write down their points. The Third is another DATE and the fourth is another POINTS column. They each have a sheet dated from 3-6 up through 4-2. There is space under the table to write down any point purchases, so we can 'deduct' those points from their point 'accounts'. Similar to a bank, I suppose.
Well... that's really all I can think of on details for it, but if you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask!!


craftykat said...

Thank you for going into your points system in greater detail. I have printed your post out and am pondering how to apply it in our family. I think we definitely have room for improvement with behaviors around here, and I think as parents, we all get tired of yelling all the time- to yell over the kids or just getting on their case. Thanks for passing along what you're trying, and for the update on how it's working so far.

Expressions by Heather said...

You're welcome, Craftykat! I hope you have success with it! I only wish I knew about it when the kids were a lot younger. It would have saved ourselves a LOT of headaches over the years. ;)