Kids' Discipline: Jack Ingram's Star Reward System
Submitted by Jack Ingram
I've got one for you: It's my tried-and-true method of getting my kids to do exactly what I want when I want it (some of the time!).
It's a reward system that I call Stars. It's a merit system based on what I learned while being a counselor at a summer camp called Camp Longhorn. It works like this: When a kid does something positive—like saying please without being prompted, holding the door for somebody, putting his or her shoes on the first time you ask, sitting at the table for the entire meal, or, you know, anything that they normally don't do without excessive straining by you to get it done—they get a star. If they do the opposite of any of the aforementioned actions or anything else that you deem negative behavior, they lose a star. When my kids accumulate 20 stars (that's my number; it's arbitrary), they get a special treat. That treat can be something that you know they've been dying for or something they are into that day or whatever—something cool. It's that simple.
I tried to keep the star chart on the refrigerator and have the stickers and all, but that turned out to be unrealistic: Most of the time, if I was handing out and taking away stars when we were outside, I would forget the count by the time I got home. Plus, taking star stickers off the paper chart was a mess. But now I have a good tracking system: I started keeping my kids' star count on my Blackberry. There is a memo icon feature on my phone and I just titled it STARS. So now when I tell my boy, "Hey buddy, you got a star for tripping your sister!" (Just kidding!) When I tell my boy, "Hey buddy, you got a star for helping your sister up when she tripped." (I didn't see how she fell!). Then he says back to me, "Let me see you put it in your phone!" They got with the program very quickly. Now I just have to be on the lookout for my kids trying to hack into my phone!!
I got tired of putting my kids in time-outs all the time and threatening time-outs; and then having to physically place them in time-outs; and then having to sit around and wait five minutes for the time-outs to end—you know the drill. I'm not saying time outs don't work, because they do. Time outs don't work in public places and it's hard to be consistent.
This STAR system works for me. It's quick. It's effective. It's fun for the kids when they get rewarded for good behavior. And losing a star is not the end of the world for them, but my kids do not like losing them—trust me.
That's it. I've spilled. Stars for everybody. Maybe even a star for me, on the Walk of Fame one day. I've been a good boy, I promise!
In addition to being a dad, Jack Ingram is best known as a country music artist. Check out his latest album is "This Is It"
in stores now.