Friday, September 27, 2013

The Economics of Changing Everything

It's been three weeks and we are still going strong with The New Program.

Well . . . strong-ish.

Week one was full of energy and excitement, as usual. I kept track of the boys' time doing homework and reading each day on the calendar in color coordinated pens. Extra time was given for memorizing a scripture, doing chores in a timely manner and random motherly whims.

Week two faced a major stumbling block when Robert and I spent three days in Bend. I wasn't there to monitor homework or reading time, nor was I able to record time on the calendar. I had to trust whatever amount of time the boys said they'd earned. Also, I started taking away time as penalty for getting to bed late and two boys lost 2 hours when they snuck 2 hours of TV instead of going to bed.

Now, here we are at week three. The boys are now responsible for recording their time on the calendar. Jonah and Isaac are excellent at following through with this. Ethan, not so much. This is where things might potentially fall apart. I'm too lazy--I mean, busy--to monitor all the reading and homework Ethan does and while Ethan is honest, for the most part, I don't think he has anything against evaluating himself in the best light.

The Program has evolved over the last few weeks.

Exercise is now one way kids can earn time. Also, Ethan gets time for homework he does in study hall at school. While I didn't want to include this because I have no control over monitoring, I realized there would be an incentive not to do homework at school, so I acquiesced. Kids can earn time and a half for reading the scriptures or working on Duty to God.

I've been taking time away for not following through on responsibilities or other infractions. I must admit, it makes me feel like Professor McGonigal to declare, "30 minutes from Ethan!" I kind of like it.

Finally, Robert and I decided we'd add an incentive NOT to play screen on Saturday. So we offered to buy screen time for $1 per hour. So far, Jonah is the only one to take us up on the offer. But Jonah is the one who has regularly accrued 12+ hours of screen time--more than the allowable hours on Saturday--while Isaac and Ethan usually have 4-6 hours accrued.

Today Jonah's brain wheels were spinning. He had 6 hours left over from last Saturday. I told him I didn't want to have time carry over from one week to the next so he would have to lose the 6 hours. He didn't care for this one bit! He had planned to sell that time to Isaac who only had 4 hours earned this whole week.

"No selling time," I told him.

We agreed that I would pay 50 cents an hour this one time only, and starting tomorrow, he would have to sell or use all his time by the end of the day or lose it.

Earlier in the week, Isaac begged not to have to do his homework right after school. We had this problem last year: Isaac would beg to do his homework after dinner, then forget until about 30 minutes after bedtime. He would end up in a panic, staying up way too late to finish everything.

So this year the only option was to do the homework right after school. And Isaac was on board with that for the first few days. But soon he started begging to put off his homework until later.

My answer was always "no," but when his begging became annoying, I made this offer: he could postpone his homework in exchange for 1 hour of screen time, but could earn that 1 hour back if he completed his homework and was in bed with the lights out by 9pm. So far, he's taken that risk twice and it has worked out for him.

I feel like The Program has taken on a life of its own. It is growing and evolving and becoming more and more about incentives. Our currency is screen time and we are wielding it to get desired behavior.

I, for one, welcome this new economy, but am still not convinced it will last.

However, if it lasts only long enough so that my boys establish good habits of time management and self mastery, then I say, mission accomplished.

1 comment:

Senia said...

My head is spinning. If this were our household, Kevin would make a Excel spreadsheet, I guarantee it. Any excuse for a spreadsheet!