Monday, May 05, 2008

The "Earn-Back Bag"

The earn-back bag is pure genius, and I deserve no credit for the idea. The concept came from a "Parenting with Love and Logic" class that Scott and I took. Oh, wait, Scott only went to the first of eight classes. I guess it was a class that I took. Here's a very short and inadequate description of Love and Logic. It's a parenting style that requires parents to outsmart their kids by either (1) distracting their kids with lots of questions that seem ridiculous to the parents but keep the kid from pouting/whining/disobeying or (2) making the kid think and be creative in order to solve his/her own problems. All of this must be done with a calm demeanor and loads of sympathy for kids when they have problems...that way you don't "seem" like the bad guy.

One suggestion from our class was called the "Buy-Back" bag or box. The suggestion was that when your kid doesn't pick up and put away her stuff, you take the kid's stuff and put it in the bag. When the kid wants it back, the kid has to pay you for it. If they don't get all their stuff back within a reasonable amount of time (a month or so), then you take the stuff to Goodwill and the kid will probably never notice it's gone. I tried using the buy back back a few weeks ago, but cold hard cash isn't really a valid currency for me or my kids. Our house is set up more like a...commune. Everyone (even one-marshmallow Callie) needs to contribute. Hence, our bag becoming the "Earn-Back Bag."

So, what is required for my kids to get something back out of the earn-back bag? They have to do something nice, something that goes above and beyond what they are normally required to do around our house. Brynn is supposed to keep her clothes picked up, make her bed every once in a while, vacuum the stairs, and clean the toilets. I know, I sounds like I'm the ugly stepmother and she's Cinderella. But, she enjoys doing this stuff so who am I to stop her? Besides, she gets $2/week allowance! When she does something really well and without nagging, if she lets her sister help her with one of her tasks, or if she teaches her sister how to perform a new task, she gets something out of the earn-back bag. Or, if she does something that's not one of her regular chores and does it well and without complaining, she can earn something.

Here's how the earn-back bag started. Last week, Brynn's room was a pit. It was such a mess it made me feel like I was going to hyperventilate just walking in. So, I gave her some time to clean it up. Of course, she was totally overwhelmed and did nearly nothing. I came in to give her direction and she said she needed to poop. Convenient. I still pull that trick, although it's almost never a trick. Brynn and I just have sneaky, cooperative digestive systems. Anyway, while she was doing her business, I picked up everything that was laying around in her room. Clothes, toys, shoes, dress ups...anything that was not garbage and was not in its "home" got put in a bag. It took three paper grocery bags, actually, to get everything picked up. I put the bags in the guest room and when she emerged from the bathroom, she said, "Wow, mom. My room looks great! You cleaned it fast!" Ha. I didn't mention that all her toys were gone.

A few hours later she did something really nice...sorry I can't remember what it was. That's when I showed her the earn-back bag. She got SO excited when she found her favorite kitty in the bag. I told her the only rules were that she could only take one item out of the bag per trip and that she had to put that item away in her room immediately after getting it out of the bag. At this point, she's earned back all three of her baby dolls, her kitty, a pair of dress up shoes and a couple of other things.

Eventually Callie caught on to the earn-back bag and decided she wanted one, too. So, while Scott and I were working outside this weekend, she went into the guest room without us. She took the bedside table, leaned it onto its back, and filled it with toys from her room. Her toys, mind you, were all neatly put away. This was not a consequence of a messy room for her, it was just fun. The problem is, Callie has a tough time contributing to the running of the house as it is, so doing anything extra to earn her stuff back might take a really long time. The day after she started her earn-back bag, she ran upstairs to borrow something out of it and then returned the item an hour or so later. Funny how she doesn't really get the concept, but she wants to participate in the game. So far, she's earned back Kissy, her stuffed polar bear. She got her back by putting away the clean silverware tonight. Maybe Callie's earn-back bag will give her motivation to contribute to our little commune. Let's hope so.

Here are a few photos of the girls in their jammies tonight right before reading time. Notice Callie's zebra sunglasses in the pocket of her pj's. She wore them all through dinner which was convenient...then we didn't have to see her eyes when she cried about not getting more bread because she wouldn't eat her veggies. She should wear them more often.


Kathy Slattengren said...

Thanks for letting us know how well the earn-back bag is working! It's great that you've started having your kids do chores when they still think it's fun. One day my 5 year old son said to me "But Mom, I don't like doing chores." Right ... that's not why we do chores! I think kids who do chores have an easier time doing things at school that they don't necessarily like.

3boys247 said...

We tried the earn/buy back bag once. It seemed to be working fine. Until one day Ben couldn't find his keys, he was home for 3 hours looking all over. Finally he checked the bag and sure enough there they were. Hayden, who was very young, saw how things left out were placed in the bag and helped by putting Ben's keys in the bag. This ended our use of the earn/buy back bag.