The Day Our Reward System Worked

I'm blogging this for posterity because today we started a new rewards system for OB and it has worked really well. I'm fully prepared for the possibility that it might go completely pear shaped tomorrow but, for today, I'm basking in the warm glow of a day well done. And if this is the only day we get, then I want a permanent record!

OB is not an easy one to reward. There aren't many things he's all that bothered about. He can leave half a packet of sweets in the cupboard for a week so, although there are days when my 'no rewarding with food' principles could easily be thrown out of the window without a second thought, I don't because it really wouldn't work anyway.

He's not so bothered about TV and, to be honest, on the rare occasions when he does actually choose to sit and watch something, I'm so glad of the break that I'm reluctant to do anything to limit it in case I end up punishing myself! When we did potty training I tried to reward him with a choice of little toys. On the fourth occasion that I took him to the toy selection to choose one, he said that he didn't want any. That was the end of that.

But now we do have something that he wants. After seeing his delight when given a chance to play on other people's iPads, I have taken the plunge and bought us a cheap little 7" tablet (not an iPad!). He loves it and will happily spend ages playing on the CBeebies app.

This revelation, combined with a depressing increase in unacceptable behaviour towards me (foot stamping, shouting 'no', finger pointing, sulking, hitting, throwing things and a total lack of basic 'please' and 'thank you') which seems to be more and more immune to our usual methods, brought me to our new system.

It's very simple, and probably similar to what thousands of parents are doing every day. Every time I catch him speaking politely and behaving kindly towards Mummy or BG, he gets a bead in a jar. At the end of the day, we count the beads up and each one converts to one minute on the tablet.

Today, it has worked perfectly. He has been really engaged in choosing the beads and popping them in the jar, selecting the different colours, shapes and sizes (a bit of home ed thrown in!). A couple of times, when he's been getting rude, I've simply said "That won't get you a bead in your jar" and he's tried again in a more reasonable tone.

It's been the first day, so I've been pretty generous. A bead every time I hear a please or thank you. A bead for eating his tea without complaining about it. A bead for spontaneously bringing me Baby Girl's bottle when I had left it on the table. It has been so nice to concentrate on rewarding the good rather than resisting berating the bad.

I didn't allow the counting out until about half an hour before bedtime - a calculated move! He had 19 beads, so I set the tablet up for him and set a timer. He played happily, giving me all that time to clear away the tea things and get the baby ready for bed without interruptions. Then, to minimise stress when the time was up, I promised a bead for stopping without complaining, and segued quickly into our bedtime hot chocolate and cuddle in front of a TV programme of his choice, which he does enjoy at the end of the day.

Bedtime, which has been a bit fraught of late, was accomplished without incident with the promise of further beads for tooth brushing and settling down in bed straight away. And here I am, downstairs, three beads in the jar, and feeling in control.

Yeah, like I say, maybe tomorrow it will be different. Maybe the beads will lose their fascination. Maybe he'll decide he doesn't even like playing games on the tablet any more. But for today, I'm feeling pretty good! Let that be put on record.


  1. Aw. Bedtime in your house sounds lovely. I want some hot chocolate lol! Seriously though long may it continue!

  2. A truly cunning, attainable and incremental award system, you should market it.
    I like the bead jar idea I might try and pass it off as mine to Mrs C.


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