When my husband and I finally ended up in the psychologist’s office it was out of desperation. Temper tantrums, yelling, hitting, fighting, you name it. It was happening in our house. We just did not know how to properly parent our oldest anymore. Every single day there was some sort of fight or meltdown. It had become utterly exhausting. Our last resort was to call a doctor. And in our eyes, to this day, he is a miracle worker. It was Dr. Shahidullah from Dell Children’s Medical, who taught us how to change our child’s behavior with positive reinforcement.
We have to change
The first thing Dr. Shahidullah told my husband and me, was, we as the parents would have to change. We had been focusing on correcting the bad behaviors which in turn gave our kids the attention they wanted for the wrong things. Instead, we needed to focus and turn our attention to all of the good behaviors the boys were exhibiting. Dr. Shahidullah told us to treat our boys like a garden.
Wait…what? I know, I know, but the analogy works. Stick with me. The boys are the fruits and vegetables that we want to grow big and strong. We need to water them with love and positive reinforcement. And the weeds that sprout up? We pull those by ignoring the negative behaviors. Whining, complaining, fighting–ignore it all. Listening and doing what we ask right away–shower with attention. The Dr. said, the more we paid attention to the good and ignored the bad, the better and more successful our garden would grow. And I have to tell you, four months later, our garden is thriving.
How We Use Kelly Bucks
To really reinforce the good behaviors, Dr. Shahidullah suggested we make good behaviors tangible utilizing a prize system. Every time our kiddo does something good we give them a prize. In our house, the prize is Kelly Bucks. Kelly Bucks is a household monetary system we implemented as a tangible reward for good behavior. They can be cashed in for everything from tablet time and popsicles, to getting to choose the family movie on Saturday nights.
Everything in the house must be earned with good behavior or paid for with Kelly Bucks. Want extra tablet time? $5 Kelly Bucks. Want to make a fort in the living room whenever you want? $3 Kelly Bucks. Want to go out for ice cream? $10 Kelly Bucks. It seemed like a lot at first but honestly it is extremely easy to keep up with.
And the kids love it. They are able to make the connection that good behavior equals rewards. And we (my husband and I) intentionally give them out for everything. “Devin, you started moving as soon as I asked you to unload the dishwasher– $1 Kelly Buck. Davis, I see you brushing your teeth without being asked! $1 Kelly Buck. You two worked together to clean the toy room $2 Kelly Bucks each.”
All-day long they can earn money and cash it in for privileges. We even started giving Kelly Bucks for staying in their bed all night. (Mommies it’s been a miracle cure!) This system is fantastic. Between job cards, for discipline and Kelly bucks for positive reinforcement, we have cut the negative behavior in our home down drastically and increased the overall attitude and behavior in both our boys.
The Monetary System is Easy To Introduce
How to change your child’s behavior with positive reinforcement.
First, we ordered these fake money packets from Amazon.
Then I made rewards menus for the kids to cash them in for.
Finally, we sat the kids down and introduced them to the new system. All we said was “Hey, guess what?” We are going to start giving you guys Kelly Bucks every time we see you do something good. Then whenever you earn enough money and you want, you can cash in those bucks for rewards. Here is a menu with stuff you can cash your money in for. Every week I’ll change the menu so you can exchange your Kelly cash for something different.
The kids loved it. Pretty soon, they were telling me what they wanted to see on the rewards menu, which is awesome because it gave the kids even more incentive to work for their money. Now we have menus with Monster Trucks to purchase and some with dinosaurs. We have going out for snow cones on one and roasting marshmallows on another. The options are endless. The boys have even pooled their money together to buy one big item they found on our Alexa Echo .
The $20 toy they found was 60 Kelly Bucks. The exchange rate is 3 to 1 in our house right now. However, my husband determines the daily exchange rate for Kelly Bucks. Good behavior equals a fair exchange rate. Bad behavior or bad attitudes increases the exchange rate for store-bought items. So far the kids have purchased two separate Hot Wheels tracks, the City Super Bank Blast-Out and the Color Change Mega Car Wash Track and several Hot Wheels cars and Monster Trucks. I just purchase packs of the cars and trucks in advance and then the boys buy them individually as they earn their money. Cars and trucks go for about $10 or $15 Kelly Bucks each. I also did this for some toy dinosaurs they wanted.
The most important thing to remember with the new system is to try to catch your child doing something good. We had to abandon our normal thinking that kids should just do what they are told, but instead focus on rewarding them for behaving correctly. “Wow, you sat in your chair properly the entire dinner, $1 Kelly Buck. Buddy, you shared that toy so nicely with your brother, $1 Kelly Buck”.
The idea is to find something they are doing well and reinforce it. And then once you are paying attention to the good and completely ignoring the bad, the good starts happening a great deal more. The new system has made a huge difference in our household. Below are the details on how to implement a monetary system in your home.
How to Change Your Child’s Behavior With Positive Reinforcement
1. Ignore the whining complaining, crying. Don’t engage, but physically turn your body away from the negative action. Just wait it out. If that is not enough, calmly tell your child you cannot hear them when they whine or cry. Tell them you can listen when they are able to talk again in a regular voice. Allow your child to cry but require them to do it somewhere other than the room you are in at the time. Outside is my goto.
2. Lap praise upon praise upon praise for good behavior. Go out of your way to catch your kids doing something good all the time. It should actually start to feel a little exhausting. It will feel like you are rewarding them just breathing. (But I promise the work, in the beginning, will pay off in the long run.)
3. Set up a tangible reward system in your house. We used these money packs.
4. Set up a time during the day (lunch and dinner time worked for us.) for your kiddos to cash in their bucks for rewards. But also don’t be too rigid. Allow your kiddos to cash in for extra privileges throughout the day. (Like paying for tablet time while you’re on a work call.)
5. Make the rewards fun. Just like my job cards are the worst chores, Kelly Bucks are the best rewards. A reward menu consists of fun activities or things that we don’t normally allow every day, like building and sleeping in a living room fort, making a laser maze out of streamers in the hallway, and going out for ice cream on a weekday. These are all things I would probably resist on any given regular day. Which is what makes it such fun rewards for my boys.
Changing a child’s behaviors is not quick. They say it takes twenty-one days to make a habit and our kids have spent years perfecting theirs. It’s going to take more than a week to turn your child’s behavior around. But it will change. Think of changing behavior like turning a ship. They don’t turn on a dime. It takes planning and lots of time. But it does turn. You can do it, just stick with it.
I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment below or send me an email about your journey and the results you were able to achieve in your home.