Instead of filling my kids’ up with candy for Valentine’s Day last month, I decided to buy each of them a Hallmark’s Awesome Kid Coupon Book: 52 Ways to Say You’re Special and You’re Loved! I figured it’s the kind of gift that can help encourage good habits. I also saw it mentioned in a recent blog post about how to “reward your kids when money is tight” and thought that it was a great way to approach it. It has coupons like: Family Board Night, One Root beer Float, Camp out in the family room, Skipping vegetables for a meal, Double Allowance, Chore Waiver - they are just all so cute. My kids like to spend time just reading through the different coupons and letting me know which ones they prefer.
When we gave it to them, we explained the "Coupon Book Ground Rules" – created, quite frankly, because, as every parent knows, kids will find every loophole or possible interpretation for anything you give them!
Coupon Book Ground Rules
1. Parent can present a coupon when recipient has been “caught being good”.
2. Not all coupons are available at all times.
3. Coupons are non-refundable/non-negotiable
4. Parent can give and take away coupons at their own discretion
My ds, Nate, who is almost 6, loves to stay up late. We can put him to bed early and he will keep himself awake and entertained for hours-even if that means he only has the clothes in his dresser to play with (true story!). He is so notorious for his late hours that a friend of mine recently bought him a t-shirt that reads “Bedtime is for Suckers”. He wears it often. His night owl tendencies create huge issues for us in the early morning when we need him to get ready for school. You would think he’s a teenager with how he carries on when we try to wake him up. He yells, he screams, he whines, pulls the covers over his head – you get the idea. It’s quite a scene.
Morning routine at our house is a well-run operation down to the minute and any deviation can have huge ripple effects on the rest of our day, so getting Nate up and ready to go on time is paramount. A few days ago, to our shock and amazement, he got up, got himself dressed and came down for breakfast with no prompting or prodding. To reward him, we made a huge deal about it and gave him a coupon. He was so proud and excited and picked out the “skip vegetables at one meal” voucher.
Hannah, my dd, who is about to turn 8, caught wind of what was going on and started to do the “what about me” whine. I heard all about how “she always gets up on time”, and “how she never gets noticed” and “Nate gets everything” and “why can’t she have a coupon too?” It was so upsetting to her that she stormed upstairs, crying. Remember what I said about any deviation from our morning routine? – well this “storming” was not planned for and needed to be handled quickly. So, I did what every busy parent does – I told her that maybe if she calms down she can get a ticket when we got home from school, knowing in the back of my mind – no way was she getting anything for this tantrum. I was just simply postponing the crisis until a more convenient time.
It got me thinking – How do I teach and encourage my kids to be happy for another’s good fortune or experience? How do I teach them that life isn’t always fair? Some days they will have their time in the sun and other days, it will rain. I sat Hannah down that evening and we talked about how great things happen to her all the time. How lucky and blessed she is compared to some in the world. I cited some examples so that she could wrap her head around the concept. We discussed what being a good person means and that sometimes it means you need to sit back and appreciate the good things that happen to others. Learning to get up and ready on his own is something that her brother needed to work on, so he got rewarded for it. We also discussed some of the things that she needs to work on as well, like learning to be happy for others. I think she grasped the concept fairly well. When we were done talking, I saw her go over to her brother, hug him and say “good job this morning”.
But I wonder - did she really get it? She said she got it and certainly her actions afterwards were right on the money. But as we all know, the only sure fire way to find out is to see what happens next time…
I would love to hear any stories or advice you have about your own experiences helping your children learn those global lessons we all need to know.