In home behavior point systems for teens fail for two basic reasons, but either reason can ruin the entire effort
Reason #1: Inconsistency in the application of points and rewards. Many adults begin to feel a bit awkward once they start a system, because they begin to feel like they are being “mean” or “too rough”. As a result, they either give points too easily or give “breaks” and “second chances” instead of withholding points when infractions occur. The other problem is when the system is based on removing points instead of awarding points. There is a subtle difference, even if it is just in how you think about and present the system. The child has either performed the desired behavior, or they haven’t (within the designated time frame.) If they have, give the point. If they haven’t, don’t give the point. No “earn the point, loose the point, earn the point back. Points should be given at the end of the day, at a likely time when the child can “cash them in”, such as early evening. The “point day” could run from 4:00pm to 4:00pm, for example. Keep it that simple!
While there will need to be adjustments along the way, the basic behavior categories should be determined in advance, and then “stuck with”.
Reason #2: Problems with values. If the reward menu does not have highly valued items and activities by the child, then the system will not work. The other problem with value is how the economy of the system works: if you have inflated point “prices”, it takes too long for the child to get a reward. If your rewards are too inexpensive, they lose their power quickly. There should be something a child can afford to buy with earned points at least once a week, and preferably each day. It should be an exceedingly rare day when a child earns no points in a day.
Adjustments in the secondary reward menu will more likely be need that changes to the behavior categories, because some rewards may loose their high value over time.
How to frame your thoughts to make this work: Think about your own job. You work, you get paid. If you do not do your work, you don’t get paid. If your employer stops paying you, you probably will stop working. If you employer decides to cut your wages in half, even though you are doing the same work, you probably will quit your job. If you get a job that pays you huge amounts of money for only moderate work, and the employer never checks your work, you may begin to take the income level for granted, and get very sloppy in your work.
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Welcome to the professional website of W. E. Krill, Jr. M.S.P.C. Bill is an experienced counselor with children, teens, families, adults, and couples. He specializes in treating children and adults who have PTSD as a result of interpersonal trauma.
Lilian on January 22, 2015:
Hey, that's a clever way of thniking about it.