by Arthur Correa on 2/10/2011
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Like all parents, my wife and I have been struggling with getting our kids to help out more around the house.  They're good kids and they do the chores when we ask them, but like most kids they aren't crazy about the whole thing.

Then a few weeks ago I was reading Influencer: The Power to Change Anything and I got an idea.  I was reading the section on changing peoples behaviors and how its hard.  You know what, I get that, I've seen it first hand in my job over the years.  In one role in particular the people I worked with were gun shy about ever trying to change peoples behaviors because they've never gotten it to stick.

The book talked about how you have to give them an incentive to change their behavior, one that appeals to their ethics, morals, and points of view while also interesting them enough to stick with it.  As I read about that I started thinking about how I could use this to help my kids do chores.

Now I've also been a video gamer for years, and I've been closely watching movement to apply game mechanics to every day life.  It makes sense to me to do that, so I thought can I do it with my kids?

So I decided to make a video game sort of structure around chores.  I came up with a list of tasks (chores), and when the kids complete each chore they get x number of points.  They can cash those points in for rewards, and when they get enough they can even level up and get new tasks with more point potentials or some sort of special one time reward.

Coming up with the points for each task wasn't trivial.  I had to think about how quickly they would accrue them, and I also wanted to make sure I prevented the ability to game the system itself. For example I wanted them to be able to get points for not watching tv at all during a given day.  My first thought is to say they get points if they go all day without watching tv.  That doesn't work though, because if there is a given day that they want to see something in particular (for example they love the show Wipeout and never miss it), then they know they won't get the tv points for that do so they might as well watch all day long.  My next thought was to say for each hour they don't watch tv they get a point, but that isn't great either because then they can choose what their acceptance level is of points vs tv rather than not watch tv at all.  I still don't have a good answer for this one, its a work in progress, but its a great example of making sure that the points system encourages the behavior changes we want.

So what can the kids do with these points?  Well in the short term I see them cashing them in for 1 cent per point as a sort of allowance.  Long term I plan on using them as currency to buy time spent playing video games or tv itself.  I want them to feel like they have to earn the points to do the things that they want so that they have the incentive to keep doing the chores.

We've been doing it for about a week now.  Not a huge sample I admit, but so far its going great.  The kids come home and look for things they can do on the point chart (not all the time, but often enough that I can see its starting to work), and get excited about counting up how many points they have.  I'll keep the site posted on how this experiment goes.

 





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