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Rewards and Consequences for an eight year old boy - ideas please?

(7 Posts)
NotaDisneyMum Mon 15-Aug-11 21:56:55

I was going to put this in parenting, but as it relates to DSS, I thought it might attract some negativity there.....sad

As DSS is getting older, he is beginning to push and test the boundaries, and DP (and I) find ourselves having to work harder than DP did a few years ago wink

DSS lives with his mum, but spends nearly a third of his time with us; and half of all school holidays.

We have identified with him specific behaviours that are unacceptable in our home - the most important being that he does not listen to, or deliberately disregards, adult instructions; this could get him into trouble at school as he gets older, or put him at risk of harm, so we want to address this as soon as possible.

The problem is, he seems impervious to rewards or consequences, and we are a loss as to what is high value to him so he will actually consider his choices carefully before he acts. I think that this is partly due to the lifestyle we lead - we have no TV, or games consoles to withhold.
Because he has limited time with us, his clubs and out-of-school activities are not in our total control, and he misses them frequently when in his mums care, so attending seems to be something he can take or leave.
He welcomes his pocket money from DP, but saves it for months before buying a high-value item he wants, so missing a week has little impact.

The only time we see him enthusiastic about something is when he has a new lego set to build - but we don't want to get into the pattern of rewarding him by buying something, and it's not something we can really confiscate as a consequence - it is the challenge of the new set that thrills him, the models then sit on his shelves untouched. The other thing he enjoys doing is baking cakes with DP - we actually managed to get him to stop picking his nose constantly be saying that he couldn't bake until he broke the habit......so that's something we can use, but not exclusively? confused

Any ideas?

exoticfruits Mon 15-Aug-11 22:32:25

How about both sitting down with him and drawing up a list of rules together-get his input-is there an area you could compromise on?
I would then write them down. Say that because it will make daily life much simpler you will reward him if he can stick to them. Write up a list of things you could do-they don't have to cost-things like play chess (or learn to play chess) bake cakes, go the park and kick a ball around etc.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 15-Aug-11 23:22:33

exotic - we've done the rules with him; we agreed, and compromised on, the things that he will do to contribute to the household, things he will do to take personal responsibility for himself and things he will work on in terms of acceptable behaviour in our home - listening to adults and not telling lies are the two that were picked together. wink

The problems isn't the rules - he understands them and at his request, there is a list on the fridge! The problem is the motivation - nothing seems important enough for him to be motivated to change his behaviour - he has agreed and knows the rules, but seems to think his behaviour is not under his control - "I couldn't help that I lied, it just happened", or "I don't remember if I was asked" when he fails to do something.

He seems to struggle to remember positive experiences with us - he has forgotten everything about the week he spent here last Christmas, for instance, when we played his new game of monopoly that took three days to complete, he was banker (for the first time ever, which he was so chuffed about) and he won the game fair and square, something else he'd never done. He doesn't remember that or any of the other things we did together that week, despite prompting sad.
There are lots of other experiences he's had with us which he seems equally positive/enthusiastic about at the time (helping wash the car, picking fruit, choosing and cooking dinner), but he can't remember them a couple of weeks later.
I think part of the problem is that if he can't remember feeling good about these things, then the motivation to maintain his self control is less - he wants the reward of doing something now, rather than a delayed reward offered later as he doesn't know that it is positive.

overmydeadbody Tue 16-Aug-11 13:40:44

Hi NotaDaisy,

I really feel for you, as I have similar experiences, but let me just explain what helped for us.

In a nutshell, it is all about praise. Praise praise praise the good and as much as possible ignore the bad.

My DS is 8, he lives with me and my DP full time as he has no contact with his father. He has AS, he finds school very hard, and in short, can be very very defiant.

After trying evrything, we were at our wits end and someone from the special needs section recommended a token reward system. I did some research.

Now, we praise every little thing he does right, any positive behaviour we see, even the very small ones, even the things you might think "every 8 yr old should do that, why should I praise that?" and oh my god it works.

Basically kids love being praised, and when you praise good behaviour you reinforce it, and when you ignore bad behaviour you don't reinforce it.

You want to reinforce all good behaviour and basically change the child's behaviour patterns. Like training a dog.

Don't punish, don't spend hours taking about bad behaviour, discussing it afterwardas, resoning with the child.

Just praise and reward. Rewards can be anything that appeal to your DSS, a trip to the park or wsimming pool for example, and smaller things like getitng to choose what's for supper.

My DS earns card tokens, so for example he can earn tokens for doing anything I or DP ask him, cleaning his teeth, putting his clothes in the washing basket, responding without shouting, doing homework etc etc. Some things earn him a double aor tripple token, most things earn him one.

He can then exchange tokens for all sorts of things, they are his currency. He exchanges most tokens for computer time (with 1 token earning him 4 minutes) but can exchange 20 tokens for a magazine, trip to the park with DP or a lego mini figure) or 50 tokens for £1 (he doesn't get pocket money).

It works wonders, when combined with proper praise and lots of situations we set up that enable him to earn tokens (e.g preparing him in advance for soemthing we know he might have a meltdown over, reminind him that he can earn tokens for reacting in a positive way to events etc.)

The aim of the game is to allow him to earn as many tokens as he can, and as he gets good at this we can review the system and help him achieve more.

overmydeadbody Tue 16-Aug-11 13:45:09

And the praise has to be instant, and the reward or exchange for tokens need to include things he can do straight away.

Praise needs to be instant, specific to what they have done ("well done DS for not shouting when I asked you to do your homework, that was such a mature way to react!") and possibly accompanied by a pat on the shoulder, light touch or a hug. This reinforces the desirable behaviour (not shouting). If DS had shouted when I asked him to do his homework I would have ignored the shouting (not the old me of course, the old me would have shouted back, escalating the situation!blush)

BertieBotts Tue 16-Aug-11 13:55:50

I think it's really important to link consequences to actions and make them relevant - the nose picking one was good because it was directly linked - nose-picking is unhygienic and could have caused bogies to end up in the cake, so it's logical, easy to remember, linked to something he really wanted to do as well.

So the one you are focusing on is instructions. Could you try a different tack to this - try asking differently, perhaps? So for example, you ask him to do something, he says "Okay", but some time later it still isn't done and he denies being asked. Could you try something like when you originally ask him, get him to specify when he is going to do that thing. So at a particular time, or when he's finished something else, or after he's done XYZ, or by the end of the day, or whatever. And ask him if he would like a reminder (if he says no and then keeps forgetting then I'd start making the reminders mandatory, even if he finds them annoying). And other ways of adapting the way you ask, so he's not blanking it out as "Yap yap yap adults nagging" but actually engaging. I know that this doesn't solve things completely because other adults e.g. at school won't be asking him to do things in a roundabout way or tailoring it to his way of thinking, but if you can start getting him to do things at home, it's a start.

HansieMom Thu 18-Aug-11 23:55:01

I think you are doing a lot of things right already. I'm impressed he helps to bake cakes. How about more cooking, or further baking if he likes that better. Maybe he'd like to make scones, bundt cake, peach cobbler, bran muffins? GS and I like Lego here too.

He might like going shopping for some cool kitchen items--a whisk, tiny cupcake pans, tiny bundt pans.

How about making a scrapbook for him, mostly pics. When he helps make a gorgeous cake, take pics and write a couple lines. Pics of things you do, like game playing or hiking.

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