Stone Reward System

Stone Reward System

Stone Reward System

Reward systems are often useful in motivating and disciplining kids, a task which requires endless parental creativity and energy. A tool or idea may be working perfectly, then seemingly overnight, it’s fallen flat. Our family’s stone reward system started very simply years ago, and over the years it has been reinvented and continues to be an effective parenting tool.

We started with a package of smooth stones from the craft store and three clear tumbler-sized votives. Having a translucent jar helps the kids to see their progress and letting them select the stones is an easy way to get them instantly involved and on board when you unveil the new plan. When we caught a kiddo doing something worth rewarding, they got to put a stone in their jar.

Listening the first time, getting ready for school on time, making your bed, helping your sister, all earned a stone. “Ali, great job coming the first time I called you. Thank you, go put in a stone.” The new system forced my husband and me to look for the good in the kids and to focus on the behaviors we wanted to encourage instead of ranting about those that caused us frustration.

A positive off-shoot started to bloom. As soon as we rewarded a stone to one child, the others were immediately aware of their actions and altered them to work toward earning a stone, too. Eventually, we had to install a “no-ask” policy, the kids couldn’t do something nice then ask for a stone, it needed to be awarded not requested. Another heart-warming, unanticipated side effect was that the kids started to tell me about the good deeds of their siblings, “Mom, Anna deserves a stone, she just helped me clean my room.”

When they filled their jar, they would receive a larger reward which they selected ahead and cut out or drew a picture of to illustrate. The goal reward doesn’t have to cost anything, you can decide what genre of rewards works for you, some ideas are a special hike alone with one parent, a book or small toy, a night out for ice cream or the privilege of choosing a special dinner and dessert.

After a while, the stone system in it’s original format slowed down and needed revamping. The kids were older and had new interests, now each stone earned counted for 5 minutes of computer time, no stones, no computer. We also put some restrictions on how many stones they could use at one time or in one day. You can adapt this to fit your family’s values. It worked so well, and my youngest was learning her five’s times tables as she counted out six stones to watch 30 minutes of TV.

Eventually that system, too, wore itself out and money had became increasingly more valuable to them. We hadn’t ever been really great about an allowance/commission routine. We had check lists and chores which the kids did with varying degrees of efficiency and reliability, they got paid based on work done, but no payment system seemed to stick for us (daily? weekly?) and there were jobs they did that got no payment, they just were expected to do things as members of our family. So last year, we merged the two concepts. Now when the kids do their list of jobs they are paid in stones, each one worth $0.25 and I pay them at the end of the month. No work = no stone = no money.

Their list of jobs includes anything that can be measured in a definitive way: Did you do it or not? Even small children can be expected to set the table, empty wastebaskets, unload silverware from the dishwasher, carry out recycling or help wash vegetables for dinner. We also include daily habits on our lists, things like emptying then hanging up your backpack, practicing piano, and being on time for the bus all earn a stone.

The kids love counting up their stones at the end of the month and I’ve never missed paying them since we started this new reward system, which teaches them about on time payments, a lesson I was missing by being inconsistent in prior allowance/commission methods. I still have them throw in some stones for kind acts, prompt listening and self-motivation (I love rewarding them when they do something without me needing to remind them!)

The stones can also be the perfect solution as a consequence for undesirable behavior. I’m big on disciplining in a timely way with loss of privilege or a negative consequence that fits the offense. Sometimes things need an acknowledgement that they were wrong or not acceptable but a grand punishment isn’t warranted, I find that asking them to take out a stone for a specific reason is very effective, they care about their stones and it’s meaningful to them to lose one.

Make it your own, get creative with jars, colored stones, try different containers for each child or color-coded stones. Start out with a set of guidelines for your reward system and work with it, give it a chance, but be open and willing to sit as a family and change it up when it’s no longer serving it’s purpose. Get the kids involved in brainstorming the details.

Who knows how long our current formulation will last, but considering the variety of reward systems we’ve tried over the years, from sticker charts to allowance plans, this stone reward system has had the longest life, with effective results as it’s adapted along the way.

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13 Responses to Stone Reward System

  1. documama says:

    This topic is always a challenge as parents, I know what you mean about having to change the system around as the kids interests change. The stone system does sound effective though, we may have to give it a go!

    • ldecesare says:

      So true, and switching things up now and then can keep it fresh and novel for the kids. Let me know how it works out for you if you take it on!

  2. gina says:

    Love this what a good idea!!

  3. Emily says:

    I love this idea. We did something similar to turn our son’s behavior around when we were in a really negative stretch- feeling like he wasn’t listening and wasn’t reacting to time outs or negative consequences. It was winter so we decided to give him a ‘snowball’, which was a white piece of paper cut into a circle, and we would write his good deed on the snowball and then tape them up on the wall so he built a wall of snowballs. Same rule as the stones- you can’t ask for a snowball. It has to be unsolicited good behavior/ kindness. It was amazing how things turned around. He became totally motivated to earn snowballs and really proud when he received one. He even suggested his sister get a snowball for not crying too much. :) we didn’t keep it up for that long because his behavior seemed to improve and we could go back to the regular methods, but kept up the positive recognition of good deeds. Highly recommend using something like this when things start to feel like they are spiraling into the negative.

    • ldecesare says:

      Great idea, Emily! I completely agree that sometimes we just need a creative idea to help everyone focus on the positives and kind of get back on track! Another Mommy-tool to the rescue, it sure takes a lot of energy, doesn’t it?! But well worth it!

  4. […] to focus on and add them to their written job list (we go over the list at dinner time and they earn stones), we do see some changes. This spotlight does help to improve results and aims to form a new, […]

  5. […] parents, it’s always helpful to have new ideas for our tool bag, it seems that one reward system or motivational tool works for only so long, then it’s time to change things up. This is a fun […]

  6. […] for negative behaviors and positive consequences for good behaviors. I love being able to reward my kids’ good choices in life. Praising and acknowledging the behaviors you want to encourage is the best way to […]

  7. […] to get comfortable trying stuff out, I love the idea of building up a parenting “tool bag” with tools gleaned from different sources. Tools can be stories to illustrate an idea, demonstration of a […]

  8. […] different motivational tools like the paper chain or the stone reward system. These also can work as ways to encourage the […]

  9. […] to negative issues, we need regular reminders to help us refocus on positives.  For example: Noticing when the kids do something right instead of something wrong, acknowledging a spouse for a small task or sending a thank you […]

  10. […] Reinforcing positive behavior is the best way to get more of that behavior— it’s just not always top-of-mind as parents because that behavior is already the expectation. At my house when we are working on a modification (example: being nice to your sister or getting dressed before coming downstairs) I have set reminders on my phone to remind myself to keep up the compliments and give praise for good behavior. […]

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