Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 points to a perfectly helpful child.

Yah, right. You wish. So do I.

Quinn is helpful. Maybe even more helpful than most seven year old kids. But he grumbles every step of the way, cuts corners, hides stuff and asks at every opportunity “Why doesn’t Austin have to do this stuff at his house!???”

The most important thing in Quinn’s life right now—or should I say the greatest leverage I have on the boy—is Snuggle Night with me. Snuggle Night, as you probably guessed because you are so very clever, is when Quinn and I fall asleep together in my bed, then he is carried by Andrew to his own bed later in the evening. As this is a great motivator for Quinn, I developed a system whereby we both get what we want, if—and only if—all the conditions are met.

The Points System. I’m not the genius who invented it. Every parenting expert has their own version, and mine is by far perfect. But it seems to work for us.

Quinn has two tiny bowls of pennies on the kitchen counter, placed in front of his Points Checklist, which is mounted on the wall above. One bowl is labeled “Points Pot”, the other “Points Earned”. At the start of each day, Quinn has zero points. He needs to earn TEN points throughout the day to earn Snuggle Night. Points are easy to earn: Brush your teeth. Make your bed. Get dressed… Simple, yes, but they are also very easy to lose: Whining. Complaining. Unfair play…

What we are actually hoping to achieve by this, is for Quinn to learn about initiative—that by doing something before or without being asked, he can reap some wonderful rewards, not the least of which is knowing he has been extremely helpful within the family and our home.

If Quinn hasn’t earned ten points, there is NO Snuggle Night. It is amazing to watch him come up with ways to earn extra points as needed, which we can assign at our discretion. And he’ll ask “Can I earn points for…?” We don’t always say yes, and he understands. This is a simple concept of cause and effect, which clearly works for Quinn.

In special circumstances, points can be carried over if unused (for instance if Andrew and I go out for the evening), or traded-in for other rewards (like McDonald’s, or a sleepover with a friend).

Have a look at our Points Checklist, and see if something like this might work in your home. It has spared us many negotiations and stand-offs.

[ Download PointsChecklist.pdf | 74k ]

How do you encourage, or entice, your children to help out around the house?


  1. That is totally cool - do you use it with Jake? We have started doing something like this, but very basic, for Pete (who is 4), but I would love to try something that I could use with both of them. Obviously a 4 year old can do more things, and handle more tasks, but it would be nice to get David "primed", lol.

    Great chart! I'm so glad it works for you!

  2. Ok first I must say snuggle night is just too cute!!! I hope when my son gets older he will want to have snuggle night with his mommy!!! :)

    As for the point system that is a great idea. I will have to keep it in mind for when I need it later down the road.

  3. We do something similar for The BOy's allowance (he's also 7.) He gets a quarter for most things. But some things are worth more if they are more labour intensive. (Helping to shovel the driveway, massive sort and clean of the basement... etc. etc.)

    He doesn't lose points. But he doesn't get anything if he slacks off.