We’ve been challenged lately. I’m not sure when it happened, how it happened, or WHY it happened, but our girls have picked up some serious attitude. Part of me thinks it must be the pressure of transitioning to a school schedule — all of those changes, the exhaustion from early mornings, and thinking that they’re more grown up than they are. They’re still wonderful, sweet girls the majority of the time, but when caught at the wrong moment, they’re definitely a little too big for their britches. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, since there aren’t many pairs of britches out there that Ana has outgrown.)
My adapted discipline methods haven’t been nearly as successful as I had hoped they might be during this new challenge. Who knew that turning into an emotional harpy who constantly delivers ultimatums and threats would be completely ineffective? I’m as surprised as you are to report that I’ve been totally unsuccessful in alleviating the sass around here. Rather than continue on being the kind of mother I never wanted to be and being met day in and day out with no improved results in behavior, we decided to make some changes around here.
Enter the “Princess Points.” I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again — elementary school teachers know what they’re doing. I’ve “stolen” so many great ideas from the two teachers the girls have had so far along on their education journey, and I plan to keep on keeping on because they work. Ana’s school has a “Gotcha” system. Students are rewarded “gotchas” for all kinds of different, good behaviors, and once a week, they have a “gotcha menu” of rewards that they can spend their gotchas on. Emma’s school has a similar system with “Gator Gold,” and, boy, do these systems encourage both of our girls to be their very best at school!
We know that attaching a princess label to anything makes it ten times more effective with Ana and Emma (because they loves them some princesses), so we’re calling our system Princess Points. When we catch them having good attitudes, showing good manners, being kind to one another, trying new foods (a real battle with Ana), doing excellent in school, keeping their rooms clean, helping out around the house, even being nice to the dog — we award them Princess Points. Along the same lines, if we see them having bad attitudes, fighting one another, etc, etc, we reserve the right to take Princess Points away. We have some very pretty tally sheets on the side of the fridge for displaying accumulated Princess Points (hooray for scrapbooking supplies!), along with a “Princess Point Menu.” Five points buys thirty minutes of a Wii game, Play Dough time, sidewalk chalk time, and more rewards, and the chart goes up to one hundred points, which will buy a trip to the zoo, a Chuck E. Cheese visit, and more. The great thing about the system is that the girls themselves helped to come up with the list of behaviors to reward and the point menu, so they know going into this what’s expected of them and what the “payoff” will be. We let them decide if they want to spend their points or if they want to save up for a 10 point, 20 point, 30 point, 50 point, 75 point, etc reward, so they have the opportunity to learn a few things about saving and spending as well.
So, does this even work? Does it make any difference? IT DOES! Sure, we still have some bad moments, but overall, this is working like a behavior contract of sorts where there is no threatening on my part and no pushing the limits on theirs. The system is clear, even to a four and five year old, and for now, it’s helping to facilitate a much needed attitude adjustment for EVERYONE, me included. The surprising bonus in all of this is that the rewards force Wes and me to set aside time to spend intentionally doing important things with the girls. We spend the majority of our time with them, of course, but it wasn’t until we started this that we realized how little time we were spending INTENTIONALLY with each of them, one on one, completely focused on being with them. Could it be that WE are rewarded more than the girls by these Princess Points? I think so.
Hooray for Princess Points!