Earning Resets Instead of Rewards

Bea loves making reward charts (or, as she calls them “award” charts.) She’s surprisingly good at drawing rows of squares and we have pages of charts, ready to be filled in.

Right now, we have an award chart hanging outside her bedroom for sleeping through the night. Especially with Frank getting home late, she often gets up to check on him. And for a drink. And to fix her pigtails. Etc, etc, etc. There’s always something to get up for.

The biggest problem with the chart system is that Bea is not motivated by rewards. She loves making the charts but doesn’t care so much about the end result. We’ll take her for a yogurt date or Frank will do a sleepover on her trundle bed, but those are just fun things. I’m not sure she’s actually linked it to the chart itself.

Last night was a horrendous bedtime. It started out well – we went through our routine quietly and snuggly. And then, as I tucked her in, a switch flipped and she was wild. Over an hour later of removing all books, putting her back again and again, and finally losing my temper, Bea asked if she’d ever have anything fun again. I said, Probably not!!!

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Testing out the tent

Tonight, we have a sleepover at my parents’ planned. My dad has the tent set up in the basement and he and Bea will camp out. It’s been planned separately, for fun, without regard for any chart.

Part of me wanted to take it away. See? You get nothing fun!! But then I realized the grace of parenting is still doing fun things, even when our kids don’t “deserve” it. That we often need fun resets rather than fun rewards.

So tonight, Bea has earned a reset. Hopefully it’ll be a great night and she’ll receive the undivided attention that is most likely at the root of last night’s struggle.

And I’m reminded, again, that parenting is a communal effort. That I can’t be a whole parent on my own – it takes not only my partner, but my parents and friends and neighbors to fill in those gaps.

Any advice for an easier bedtime? Are you motivated by external rewards or intrinsic success?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “whole.”