Points Project Update: Poker Chips

Points Project Update: Poker ChipsAt the start of the summer, I launched something called “the points project” as a way to reward my children for good habits and reinforce the chore habit.  I told them in no uncertain terms that I would not pay for Legos, video games, or meals involving small plastic toys.

I gave them a list of chores and ways to earn points that was pretty straight forward.  Most activities (the ones that take five minutes or less) are worth FIVE points.  Each point is a nickel, so most of the stuff on their list is worth a quarter.    Earning a quarter for making their bed, taking out the trash, reading for ten minutes, running through a list of flash cards, or giving mom a hug seems like pretty easy money to me.  Frankly, I’d be thrilled to be making that kind of money for the chores I do!

On a good day, my kids could each earn over $5 a day.  That sounds like a big allowance for an elementary school kid, but remember that means they have to pay for their own toys and games this summer.

So far, it hasn’t worked.  Chores have not been done, and their good habits are a bit lacking.  On the plus side, I’ve avoided fast food and have held firm on not buying Legos.

Problems with the Points Project

(so far)

Problem 1:  We have enough money, thanks. After a few days of enthusiasm, my kids had racked up over $20 each.  They felt like that was enough money to make all their dreams come true.  A request to take the trash out was met with a polite “no thank you mommy, I don’t need a quarter.”

Solution:  I took those precious sweet little boys to Target and showed them the Lego aisle.  Money spent.  Motivation found.

Problem 2:  I don’t want to reinforce consumerism! Repeating the “I have enough money until I buy Legos” is not a viable long-term strategy.  It seems to be reinforcing consumerism, and we don’t need any more Legos.

Solution:  There has to be a better motivation that buying stuff.  Honestly, I don’t think I thought this through very well before I implemented the points project.  I recognize that teaching my kids to be responsible with their spending habits is part of what needs to be addressed.  But I started the points project without a plan.

Problem 3: When my kids earn points, I have to pay them.  That means that I must have cash on hand.  It also means my kids are then in possession of CASH.  They lose stuff, a lot.  The idea of my kids losing a twenty-dollar bill makes me get all twitchy.  I just can’t do it.  I completely ignored this when I started the Points Project.

Solution.  Amazon was more than happy to ship Play Money: Coins and Bills Tray to my house.  With my Prime Account, it arrived in two days with free shipping.    I also ordered some wallets for the boys to store their “money” in.

Problem 4:  How many points have I earned?  How many points for doing this?

Solution:  Initially, I had written all the chores on a few index cards.  I kept up with the points each day by making a little mark on a card.  Easy for me, but my kids weren’t getting the feedback they needed.  I switched to a list on the refrigerator, and then put the list in a cheap frame so the kids could mark stuff of with a dry erase marker (thank you Pinterest!).  Better, but not enough.

Problem 5:  How much are the points worth?  I’ve only made $3 today!?!?  I’ll never earn that new Lego set.  In other words, my kids needed something more VISIBLE that made them feel like they made progress quickly.

Solution:   Amazon shipped me two sets of 100 Ct. Classic Games Poker Chip Set 11.5 gm and two Rubbermaid FG7M4900FCLR 2-Quart Carafe.   Each time the kids earn points, they get a satisfying clink of poker chip (we call them point chips) into the non-breakable carafe.  I picked the heavy poker chips even though they were a bit more expensive because they feel more valuable and make a better sound.   Each carafe holds 100 chips ($25).

Problem 6:  It’s not happening fast enough!  It will take forever to earn the money for that Lego kit!  Translation?  Sometimes my kids need instant gratification.  Sometimes they don’t.  I’m OK with that.

Solution:  I decided to create an instant gratification “store” in my kitchen.  I have three canisters (from Target, but they look almost exactly like Imperial Home MW1240 Stainless Steel Glass 3 Pieces Canister Set With Air Tight Lids from Amazon).  The middle-sized jar has the poker chips.  The largest jar is filled with small toys (think birthday party favors) that I rounded up from the house.  The smallest jar has edible treats my kids beg for.  Once each day, the kids can trade a chip in for a treat.

The birthday party trinkets are stuff my kids didn’t remember owning, and so far they’ve been excited with their purchases.  Well, excited isn’t totally honest.  They are thrilled for about five minutes.  Then they want their money back because the toy is boring or broken or just plain lame.  Lesson learned.  I padded it with a few discreet purchases from the dollar store.

Where we stand with the Points Project

That’s where we are at now.  Poker chips into plastic a wine carafe and recycled birthday bag toys.  Very classy stuff indeed.

Yesterday, we had to go to Target, and I must have said “you can buy that with your own money” fifty times.  It was NOT pretty.  Tears were shed.  They were motivated, but only for a few hours.  I’m thinking about charging them a poker chip each time I do one of their chores for them.

I’m not quitting or admitting defeat.

Tell me, should I charge my kids when I do their chores?  Is there a “mom tax” at your house?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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