What was a mom to do? Summer was in full swing and the kids had a bad case of the summer crazies, little did I know this was a very contagious ailment. Unfortunately, both of my children contracted this strange disease around the same time.
Experts refer to it as MCIAC (My Child Is Acting Crazy). You might know a child that has been affected by this terrible disease. Some of the symptoms include grouchiness, talking fresh, being disrespectful, damaging things in the house for fun, refusing to help when asked, throwing tantrums (no matter how old), not listening, and just plain old being no fun to be around! This disease was unlike anything I had ever encountered.
I wracked my brain to find a cure for MCIAC: extra activities, a token reward system, complimenting good behavior, yelling, using my nice voice for hours on end, talks, bargaining, begging, and pleading, but nothing seemed to work.
Now, MCIAC is bad enough when you are in your own home, but I can promise it seems a lot worse when it hits while you are visiting someone else’s home. Lucky for me, that someone else’s house was my parents, and inside that house was a secret weapon in my war against MCIAC, my mom. A veteran at this mom stuff, she too had been through battle with MCIAC. She warned me that if MCIAC was not cured it could last well into the school year. I was in a panic!
The two of us sat together, used our teacher brains and brainstormed, thinking of all the discipline tricks in the book to try and come up with a cure for MCIAC. Our cure: allowance
I know you saw the word allowance and thought, “Oh please! Been there, done that. It doesn’t work.”
I would agree 100%. Allowance doesn’t work as a cure unless it is given in quarters, all at once, before any chores have been done, before any good behavior, even before they have earned it. It seems crazy doesn’t it?
This goes against everything I have ever known about allowance. Giving kids money before they have even done anything?!? How would it ever work? And, how does an oldie like allowance cure MCIAC?
Phase 1: Introduce the cure to the restless natives in my house. Give them each four dollars in quarters held neatly in a small container.
Problem: You see, change has never been a hot commodity in our house. The kids have always scoffed at it like it was worth nothing; unless it was money in the paper form, it ended up sucked into the abyss we call a change container, never to be thought of again.
Solution: First, a trip to our local store’s dollar section to get three containers that would be the perfect size to fit four dollars in quarters. Next, strategically drive by all the places they have the chance to visit one week from today with the change in their container like the local donut shop, their favorite ice cream place, the store that has great trading cards, the store we go to for fashionable nail polish, and even the nail salon where we get manicures.
They were reeled in, hook line and sinker!
Phase 2: Introduce the rules to our quarter system.
Problem: Kids don’t like rules.
Solution: Make sure they understand they are in complete control of their quarters. Show them how simple the rules are, and how the rules are on their side. The rules are simple, effective, and really easy for parents to keep up with each week!
- Rule # 1: The quarters are theirs from day 1 of the week. It is up to them to make good choices to keep the money.
- Rule # 2: (This is my FAVORITE!!) They need to give fifty cents each week, which we save up for a few weeks, to donate to charity. We chose to use our money to buy food for the local food pantry. They help buy it and drop it off at the food bank.
- Rule # 3: If you choose to argue, fuss, or throw a fit when you get a quarter taken away, you get an automatic second quarter taken away.
Phase 3: Praise their good behavior and good choices, and take quarters away for their bad behavior and bad choices.
Problem: Quarters can start to become a threat . . . “I am going to take a quarter away if . . .”.
Solution: I ask them to do what it was I wanted them to do; if they choose not to, then I simply ask for a quarter no warnings needed. My goal here is to make it as black and white as possible; grey areas are one big problem waiting to happen.
Phase 4: Make a really big deal of goodie day; celebrate their hard work and take them to their chosen place to spend their money!
I have been using the quarter system for almost 2 months and the results couldn’t be better! I feel like a cheesy t.v. infomercial after that line, but it is true. Life feels a little more calm and back to normal.
I think my kids are even learning an unintended lesson of how to make the most of their money by being thrifty shoppers. I let them keep the money they have earned from their quarters in the jar from week to week if they are saving up for something that might take two or three weeks and they keep any change left after buying their goodies. And, the best part of all, it appears that both kids are cured of MCAIC – nothing short of a miracle.
How much is a quarter worth in your house? I would say in mine it is priceless!
Nicole Watson is a mother, wife and teacher. She is on the constant search to find things that make navigating motherhood fun, enjoyable and just a little bit easier.