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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Golden Nickel: How to Get Your Kids to Do What You Want

by Dustin (bio)

There's this quote in leadership literature that says that the essence of leadership is getting others to do what you want because they want to. Now this sounds awfully manipulative but when you apply it to parenting it's just downright genius. Three weeks ago my wife and I stumbled on a little parenting "pot of gold" that has influenced our kids to do what we ask them to because they want to. I'm sharing it with MMM readers and ONLY MMM readers as a benefit to you for your faithfulness in following the blog and occasionally commenting. I'm even throwing a bone to those who like to blast various posts with weird and often overly critical commentary. You're welcome.

But first, imagine this: You roll over at 6:30 a.m. and throw a crusty-eyed glance out into the living room. From your vantage point in bed you can see the last few stairs of the stairwell and, to your surprise, you see your six year-old and four year-old -- fully dressed in their clothes for the day -- tip-toeing down the stairs with their laundry baskets and having already made their beds. At first you think you've gone insane. Then you go through major holidays in your mind. Father's Day? Nope. Mother's Day? Nope. What could have possibly convinced your otherwise individualistic and disobedient children to manage themselves in a mature, almost adult-like way? And then you remember ... the nickels.

This is the scene I have awakened to each day for the past three weeks and it's bizarre. Children behaving properly? At 6:30 a.m.? Without nagging, threats, or arguing? Here's the secret:

Three weeks ago, after my wife read a little blurb in a magical parenting book by the Eyre's (Mormon parenting gurus), we decided that rather than give our kids a monthly "allowance," which wreaks of entitlement, we were going to set up a system of "stewardships." On a Monday night, we explained to our children the concept of a stewardship, which is something that you are responsible for doing that no one is going to remind you to do. We then shared examples of stewardships in our home: making your bed, getting dressed, bringing your laundry down and taking it back up when it is done, and getting in the bath and brushing your teeth without being asked. We explained that the new system in our home is that they would receive wages for completing their stewardships without being reminded to the tune of one nickel per stewardship per day. If we had to remind them, or if their morning stewardships weren't done before breakfast, they would earn no payment. We also explained that there are chores that they will do as a member of the family for which they will not be paid, such as setting the table or cleaning their room, but we would offer additional stewardships from time-to-time that they could do to earn extra money, such as collecting all of the household trash or whatever my wife makes up in the moment.

I then went to the bank and withdrew $15 in nickels, or about $5 per kid for the month. Each night, we sit down before scripture study and prayers and have them report on their stewardships. They each have a little plastic piggy bank and we count out the nickels they earned for the day, which typically ranges in the 15-20 cent range. They are thrilled and filled with pride to see the direct correlation between being responsible and completing these tasks and earning money. They have also learned to value money more, finding pennies on the road and safe-guarding them all day until they can put them in their banks. Paying tithing is more real to them since we can easily help them count out 10% in nickels. AND, I can't remember the last time my wife or I had to nag our kids to make their bed, get dressed before breakfast, or bring their laundry down. There are days that they don't earn all of the potential money and you can see the determination on their face as we review the opportunities for the next day's wages. But overall we are thrilled with the result. We're developing our own little generation of capitalists and I've slowed the progression of stress-related aging.

By the way, our two year-old also makes his own bed, gets himself dressed with little assistance, and can bring his laundry down, all as a result of this program -- never too young to start! To me the system makes sense. Why give my kid a monthly allowance just for being alive? Worse yet, why have to manage a complex chore chart system? It has worked for the Eyres. Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, does a similar thing and he's pretty smart. Consider this my little contribution to keeping the economy, and cash registers throughout Texas, flush with nickels. Again, you're welcome.

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