Reward systems can be a tricky business in our house. We’ve tried so many that fizzled and failed after just a few weeks, once the shine wore off of the motivation. While I could write an entire blog post on what makes a reward system such an uncertain proposition, instead, I want to share the reward system that works for us. This system works so well, in fact, that it’s still in use more than a year after being implemented. With our track record, that’s practically an eternity.
Our ticket reward system is used strictly for school. It doesn’t cover any activity outside school, though the rewards can sometimes cover benefits outside of school. Tickets can be earned in a variety of ways: good behavior (given daily), a 100% on a test, an assignment completed above normal standards, amazing handwriting, amazing spelling, or any other exceptional behavior. Anywhere from one to three tickets are given at a time, depending on how impressive the performance or work was. At the end of the day, even if no other tickets have been earned, overall behavior is judged, and the kids can usually earn at least one ticket, unless it’s been an exceptional bad day.
Once tickets are earned, they can be spent in a variety of ways. I tried to keep all of the rewards non-monetary (except for one). Not only is this budget friendly, keeps the house from being full of random cheap prizes, and also places reward outside of the realm of stuff. The only prize I offer that does cost money is being able to go out to eat at a restaurant as a family, and this one takes a lot of tickets to earn. Some of the other prizes include additional electronics time, staying up late on weekends, bubble baths, skipping some assignments, setting up the tent for the weekend, or even making a parent do one of their minor assignments (they love this one). They can also use tickets to replace school supplies they’ve lost (this is a point of contention in our house).
Last year, our tickets were actually tickets. I got a roll of them from Wal-Mart and once earned, the kids kept them in little boxes. However, when I discovered the kids sneaking unearned tickets into their boxes, I had to switch to an app that let me add and subtract tickets virtually, safely behind my phone’s security. This does make things easier, but I do miss the tickets; I think it added a more tangible aspect to the reward.
Now more than a year in, this system is working well for us. The boys know they can earn at least one ticket a day (usually), so it makes rewards obtainable, but they have to budget them responsibly for the big things they want, like getting a parent to complete a dreaded assignment, or getting to pick a restaurant to eat at. They also have to make room in their ticket spending plans for unexpected mistakes like loosing supplies.
I have been surprised to see this system last as long as it has. For as long as it lasts, we’ll keep using it. It’s a great way to inject a little fun and motivation into the daily routine.