Friday, February 8, 2013

The Reward Store for Preschoolers

When I learned I was pregnant back in 2007, I couldn't help but imagine a tiny bundle sucking his thumb. How cute would THAT be? To my great delight, that's exactly what I saw on a sonogram a few months later. Flash forward 3 months later and Adrian had arrived, thumb and all. Of course, like all babies, he didn't find his thumb for a while but when he did, he made sure he would never lose it again by holding on to it tight; so tight in fact that until I broke out the reward store, he was still happily using it.

Thumb Sucking Adrian
Adrian and his beloved thumb back in 2008

Now I knew Adrian "should have" given up thumb sucking a "long" time ago but he's my baby and I always figured he'd stop when he'd be ready. He'd always self-regulated everything. Sure I'd suggested the beginning of potty training, the beginning of solid foods and the beginning of school but I also suggested the end of thumb sucking and it hadn't taken like other milestones had. We had chatted about his teeth being disturbed by the practice for example and him being a big boy and not needing his thumb anymore but nothing made him budge. He simply enjoyed his thumb he told me and above all, it was a 4.5 year old habit. With his 5th birthday coming up and the beginning of public Kindergarten, I figured I had better break off the habit before other children broke his spirit about it.

Enters the Reward Store:
The Reward Store

Each item has a price ranging from 5 to 20 at the moment. 
I have included only things I know are of his current interest.
I intend to add more things to keep the bin interesting. Outer space items anyone?
I also am thinking of having "sales" when Adrian gets close to having 5 pompoms to see if he'll save and try to buy something more expensive (lessons in economics, why not?).

For each day spent without thumb sucking, Adrian earns 1 pompom. He can then exchange the pompoms for the items in the bin when he has enough. So far, he has earned his pompom everyday and has already claimed a lollipop worth 5 pompoms.

The pompom jar

I made sure the pompom jar was clear so he count see how many pompoms it contained. I also display the reward store bin in plain view to encourage him to earn his "prizes". 
When the "thumb sucking" will be considered "eradicated", the reward store will probably remain open to encourage other behaviors or possibly to introduce chores to Adrian's "lifestyle" since he is getting older and could very well start helping around with little tasks. At that point, pompoms may be traded in for real money. 

Here is what's in the bin at the moment:
Close-Up of our Reward Store Bin

-A hardcover book ("No, David" by David Shannon) for 15 pompoms
-A Thomas & Friends Magazine (the newest issue) for 15 pompoms
-A new piece of track for  his take along Thomas & Friends set for 20 pompoms
-A lollipop for 5 pompoms
-A pack of  "Cars" stickers for 5 pompoms
-A small bag of gummy bears for 5 pompoms
-a never seen movie ("Kung Fu Panda") for 10 pompoms (bought the movie used for $3...)
-New take along engines from Thomas & Friends ("Bill & Ben") for 20 pompoms
-Several coupons (extra bedtime story for 5 pompoms, ice cream cone for 10 pompoms, 15 minutes of iPod time for 10 pompoms, choice of dinner on a Friday night for 10 pompoms, board game time with both mom and dad for 10 pompoms)

Homemade coupons close-up

I know reward bins always cause quite a debate. Results can be achieved without them and they can create "monsters" working only in the hopes of obtaining something or not doing anything unless something is promised to them but in the case of thumb sucking, I evaluated the situation and figured I had nothing to lose. I am encouraging a behavior I want to see and couldn't seem to see any other way. The system is working and everyone is happy about the result and process. Enough said! :) 

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