The House Always Wins- Creating a Mini-Economy to Improve Behavior

  A few weeks ago, G started to earn his first allowance.  To be clear, we’re not talking about boring, plain ol’ green money, but bright red poker chips.  G is thrilled.  Red is his favorite color.
  As R is getting older, he’s needing more and more attention and it was getting hard to take care of everything he needs and everything G wanted me to do and not collapse from exhaustion halfway through the day.  There are only so many times Mommy can clone herself to be in 3 places at once before lunch.  G’s allowance is part of a system we’ve put in place that is simultaneously giving me a breather, teaching him about money, improving his counting skills and cutting down on some of his whining about wanting to watch tv.
  One of the biggest behaviors that we were hoping to curtail with this approach was G’s need for “company” while he uses the bathroom.  He’s a social little guy and he figured out pretty quickly that he can have a captive audience to yammer at if they’re waiting for him to use the potty.  That means that using the toilet inevitably takes him 10 times longer than it should while whoever is keeping him company is trapped in the hallway outside the door, unable to do anything else while he chatters away at them.  He was potty trained months before R was born…he doesn’t need help anymore, he just likes the attention.
  Neither my Mr or I have a problem per say with keeping him company, but he wanted it every single time he used the bathroom and would throw a fit when we didn’t.  It wasn’t a great situation.  So, I told G we were going to start something new and handed him 3 poker chips.
  It works like this: every morning he gets 3 poker chips.  He can spend his poker chips however he wants or save them all day long, but certain things have prices.  If he wants someone to keep him company in the bathroom for instance, he has to pay them 1 poker chip…in which case we’ll be happy to accompany him.  However, if he saves his poker chips and builds up 5 of them, he can pick to watch a show at some point during the day when he normally wouldn’t be allowed to watch tv.
  This is working beautifully so far.  He still occasionally wants one of us to keep him company in the bathroom, but for the most part he has started going by himself…and far more quickly than when he would sit and talk to us.  The tantrums have evaporated because it’s his choice to save the “coins” instead of having company.  He watches a teenie bit more television now, but not much, seeing as he can’t earn an extra show more often than every other day, but best of all, his begging for tv is gone.  Before we implemented this system I was hesitant to let him watch any television besides the 1/2 hour he gets with his lunch.  If it wasn’t part of a routine it always unleashed a tidal wave of begging, whining and tantruming while demanding he be allowed to watch more for days afterwards.  Now, all I have to say is “do you have 5 coins?” and the discussion is over.
  The behavioral changes alone are enough for me, but as an added bonus, we’re also teaching him how money works by doing this.  He is responsible for keeping track of his coins.  Sometimes people lose their money, and once already, G lost a coin.  It made the difference between his being able to afford a show and not being able to afford one.  I happily helped him look for the coin, but refused when he suggested I just go get him another one since, basically, I knew he was supposed to have another one.  Sorry kiddo, nobody is going to hand over that Armani suit jacket you want just because they know you’re supposed to have the money to give them, even if you can’t quite remember what you did with it…  In the same vein, we’ve discussed that he can’t have more coins just because he wants them either.  He counts out his coins to pay for things and we’ve discussed the importance of making sure you’re paying accurately as well…that nobody is going to let you pay with too little, but that sometimes if you accidentally give someone too much, they may just keep it.  Good encouragement for him to make sure he’s really counting correctly!
  So far we’re keeping the system really simple.  He’s only 3 and there are a lot of new concepts involved in all this, so we don’t want to overwhelm him, but it has the potential to develop lots of nuance that will teach him the basics of money and discourage frustrating behaviors.
  Have any questions about how we’re making this work?  Leave me a comment or send me an email!
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