Friday, June 29, 2007

I've Lost My Marbles

We’re entering the start of Week 3 of our fabulous summer vacation. We’ve not hit the “I’m bored” stage yet, although I sense its arrival by the week after next. You see, we’ve nothing planned in the way of vacation. Oh sure, we’ve got weekend trips to Santa Cruz to camp planned, and we’ve got a week’s vacation in Santa Cruz in the works for some time in August, but the kids don’t count camping as a vacation.

[An aside here, please. When I was a kid, we were happy to be able to camp in our backyard under the picnic table. That’s right, and we didn’t complain either. Because my father would never have stood for it. Because he and my mom were proper parents, not the sniveling weaklings my kids see before them today in the form of me and Pete. Now, back to our regularly scheduled post.]

When I worked – yeah, yeah, I still do, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera – and got paid for it, we had loads of disposable income. An embarrassing amount, really. We could – and did – do pretty much whatever we wanted to, and the kids are accustomed to that spoiled state of affairs. [You’re not feeling sorry for them, are you? Because now they’ve got me, and I’m better than any old trinket or Hawaii or England vacation memory, right? Right.]

Now that I don’t work, the spigot of abundance has been adjusted from a waterfall to a more appropriate flow. We’ve put a conservation device on the tap. So we can’t do everything we might want to do. And, frankly, I’m tired of throwing money away on crappy toys and outings which the kids don’t appreciate.

Enter the marble jar. It’s simple, really. They earn marbles for various tasks and behaviors. Reach a certain number of marbles, and we get to do something.

Sweep the deck? Get one marble. All three of them take their fluoride tablet? Get one marble. All three of them make their bed? Get one marble each. Brush the dog? Get one marble. Set the table? Get one marble. Do three pages of your workbook? Get two marbles. Wash a car? Get five marbles. Get along? Bonus marbles, quantity of which is determined by me.

The first thing they want to do is go to the water park in Concord. That will cost them 100 marbles, which they are very close to achieving. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will cost another 100 marbles. A new movie will need 60 marbles. A trip down to Great America will require a hefty 150 marbles.

Go ahead and ridicule my parenting skills – or lack thereof. Shouldn’t the kids be making their own beds and doing their workbooks and setting the table and clearing the table and so on and so on without reward? I can make them do all of those things, and I often have. But why not let them feel like they’re achieving something?

Hell, the fact is that we’d be doing all those rewards with or without a marble system. It’s summer, for God’s sake, of course we’ll go to some amusement parks and new movies and the farmer’s market and the candy store. But this way, they’re taking ownership of their summer destiny.

Hey, maybe I’m not such a bad parent after all.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a GREAT idea!

We do an allowance system, which I actually need to get back on track with, but B gets rewarded for various things in that way. She has to divide the allowance up though, into long term savings, short term and for charity. We have three jars. It's actually based on a Christian parenting program.

chichimama said...

Brilliant! I may have to steal this idea...

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. I am going to steal and modify for my three year old!

jenica said...

smart idea. if you're into crafty things to do with your kids check this out:

it's got a plethora of fun and easy ideas.


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