Even though I checked the category box entitled Habits for Happy Kids, I must confess my kids aren’t all that happy at the moment. But I’m hoping that will change.

See we’ve had some behavior issues sneak in on us the last few years, mostly resulting from lazy parenting on my part. Sometimes its easier just to let that little bit of attitude slide than it is to address it. Sometimes it feels better to keep the peace than to insist on immediate obedience every time. But I’m paying for that laziness more and more as they get older. I was beginning to fear that my boys were developing that horrid sense of entitlement that so many kids possess.

For the last week we’ve been trying something new. We started with an earth-shattering (for them anyway) conversation about how things were going to change. We told them they would have to start earning the fun things they want to do, namely video game time, TV time, and Lego time. We chose those things because those are the things that occupy their thoughts and attention the most. We initially planned to include riding bikes and playing with friends, but decided against it for now because those activities are good for their health and the time outside the house is helpful for all of us.

We started a ticket system: one ticket = 30 minutes of desired activity. Or, they can save them up and trade 10 tickets for $1. The behaviors they are working on are immediate obedience, positive attitude, giving their best effort, being respectful, putting others first, being responsible & doing chores without being told. They have the opportunity to earn one ticket for each of those behaviors.

In order to make it all work, I started a behavior journal for each of them. I think this has been the best part of our new system. First, it forces me to pay attention and keeps me from falling back into the habit of being lazy. I have to check their chores to make sure they are done. I have to catch every little bit of attitude and each instance of slow obedience. It is also a great opportunity for me to recognize the good things they do. They light up at the end of the day when I read back to them something wonderful that they thought I hadn’t even noticed. The best part is that it gives us an opportunity to sit together each night and discuss each decision they made throughout the day, whether it was a good or bad one, and how they could have handled the situation better.

They’ve had a hard time with it so far this week, each of them coming away with only two or three tickets a day. But they are learning. We’re all learning together. I think it will be good for us all.