It all started when our oldest daughter was two. She had already been diagnosed as ADHD (yes, at that early age) and was a handful, to say the least. She would routinely do things like wake up at 4:30 in the morning, unload the fridge, and mix pancake “batter” on the floor. We would catch her clicking the cooktop buttons trying to get the flame to light so she could “cook pancakes”.
She was a sweetheart, but had unlimited energy and got distracted easily. There HAD to be a way to channel her enthusiasm so she didn’t get hurt, didn’t get anybody else hurt, and so she could feel good about herself.
One day while shopping, my wife came across a cute little butterfly outfit. My ADHD 2-year-old daughter went bonkers. She wanted that butterfly outfit so bad. In a stroke of genius, my wife bought it for her.
But instead of giving it to our daughter, my wife put the costume on top of the fridge when she got home. She had me print out a piece of paper with 100 little boxes on it and tape it to the fridge. Then she turned to our little daughter Tia and said, “If you do your job each day and fill out these 100 boxes, I’ll let you have that butterfly outfit.”
This was all the motivation Tia needed. She worked tirelessly and consistently to fill out those little boxes on the fridge. It was a real treat. Tia felt better about herself, my wife and I weren’t fretting about what trouble she would get into, and we felt as though a small miracle had occurred.
Within a few weeks, Tia’s focus paid off and she earned the butterfly costume. She was so happy. And very pleased with herself. Our little experiment was a roaring success.
Fast forward two decades, and our family has grown. So have the number of personalities and character types. The little paper with the boxes on the fridge have proven effective motivation for all types of personalities. Every one of our children responds to the paper. The catch was to find what the “butterfly outfit” was for each kid, because each kid’s dream item was different. For some kids, it was not a costume at all, but rather some sort of opportunity. They wanted to go to a party or out with friends. For other kids it was money. And for others it was simply being able to watch a movie.
Now we have an app and everything is digital, but the basic concept has remained the same. Kids (and adults) will work hard for what they want, especially when the reward is clearly laid out and the path the success is clear.