Sunday, February 23, 2020

Family Point System

A few people have asked about my family's morning point system. It's something we started over a year ago, and it works for us. Every family is different and has different needs, but this is how we currently stay sane on weekday mornings.

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At some point last year I decided I was tired of spending the morning yelling at my children in order to get out of the house. At that point, the only incentive I had to get them to move faster in the morning was the fear of KISS AND RIDE. I basically had my children believing that the kiss and ride line involved a terrifying fire-breathing dragon and if we missed the bus life would basically end. (I mean, we are lucky enough to have a bus - I am NOT waiting in that ridiculous line of cars just because you couldn't get your shoes on fast enough. Run Girls! Run!) In actuality, the kiss and ride line isn't that bad, but still. No one has time for that.

I considered giving up all together and just letting us be late, but since I work that didn't make sense either.

Instead, we went to a morning point sheet. Each girl earns points individually based around two basic requirements - that she moves quickly and acts with love. At the end of the week, the points are pooled together for a family experience over the weekend. It's a group contingency plan - no one is winning or losing, and they are working towards an experience we can do as a family. This is key because it fosters working together to earn something together, instead of competing with one another.

The Nuts and Bolts:
Our morning is divided into the three critical breaking points for us - the upstairs time (getting dressed, brushing hair, putting on shoes, getting out of bed), the breakfast period (you know, just EATING the breakfast), and then leaving the house (getting your backpack and leaving the house on time).

There are only two official rules - Move Quickly and Act with Love. Both of these cover a variety of sins, distractibility, feet-dragging, and "don't want to get out of bed" moments. Each period gives each girl a chance to earn 3 points - one for acting quickly, one for acting with love, and one that is parent discretion. Over time, this has moved to include things like clearing the breakfast dishes or making the bed - things that weren't even in the cards when we started this, but now we can add on.

You will not earn points for "acting with love" if you yell at your sister, your parent, or even the cat - if you ignore someone talking to you, say something mean, etc. You may wake up grumpy and that's fine, but you cannot take it out on the rest of us.

On the other hand, you may be as loving as possible, but if you sit there telling us how much you love us and don't actually get dressed or follow the morning routine, then you won't earn points for moving quickly.

So each day there are 18 points possible - 9 for each girl. At the end of the week 90 points is a perfect score, and my girls decided the best possible experience is dessert at the American Girl store. (Other than actually driving to Tysons, their desserts are reasonably priced so this isn't actually extravagant). 85-89 points gets us ice cream out as a family
80-84 points gets us ice cream in as a family
75-79 points is a cookie treat at home

Why it works for us:

Teaches us to forgive ourselves:
The system is set up so that even bad days can be recovered from, so that no one can just give up on Friday. I also have one child who always wants a perfect score, no matter what she is doing. I intentionally set it up as having so many points so that she can see it is OK to miss one or two here and there. It's OK to forget your breakfast dishes one morning of the week - we all make mistakes. (And thank goodness, I couldn't handle the AG store weekly).

Changes our parenting language:
What I love about our point system is that it lets us work as a team toward a common goal in the morning. It changes the conversation from "PUT ON YOUR SHOES!" to "Let's get our points for this week! What do we need to do to get all of our points?" and "Don't forget - you need to be down stairs by 7:30 to get all three points. What do you need to do before then?"

The "don't use that tone of voice with me" response became "I'm going to remind you to act with love."

Supporting Teamwork
Most importantly - they will occasionally help each other out - clear one another's dishes, help each other find their book bags, or shoes. Of course, there are times they are totally ready to let their sister suffer the consequences of losing points, but at other times they do step in and help each other out.

Yes, I wish we could have perfectly peaceful mornings without a point system, but this lets us work towards a common goal, supports our constant message that perfection isn't the goal but working hard is, AND gives us an excuse to eat ice cream, all while preventing me from yelling.