A few years ago, when my family was going through an extremely rough patch financially, we could not afford to do payday anymore. We literally had no money. So, instead of paying our kids money for their chores and habits, we opted to reward with privileges. We made one night of the week special: movie night. Anyone who earned at least $10 on their point chart could watch the movie. If you earned $15, you could get a treat. If you earned $20, you could invite a friend. And if you earned $25, you could invite two friends. This was no substitute for cash, but the kids really enjoyed it, and it brought a level of sanity into our (at the time) chaotic home. We leveraged what we had.
Later, when our financial situation stabilized, we reverted back to paying our kids cash. Everything was back to normal. Except our kids still wanted movie night. They missed having that every week. So we reimplemented movie night. Same rules as before. Only now our kids were earning monetary rewards as well as privileges. It was a layered reward. For me and my wife, it solidified our belief that layered rewards is not only effective, it’s also fun. When it comes to motivating every member of the family, creating layered rewards is the best.
Layered rewards only work within the world of supply and demand. Offering your kids movie night will not work if they have constant access to the TV and the movie collection. But when you limit movies to just one night a week, TV suddenly becomes special. It has motivational power. The same holds true for treats, privileges, and money.
I recall talking to a wonderful mother one time who swore her kids weren’t motivated by anything. All they wanted to do was watch TV. I couldn’t help but laugh. The TV WAS the motivator. All she needed to do was take the TV away and make it a limited privilege, and she would find her kids willing to do all sorts of things. She should only let her kids watch TV after they’ve cleaned up their rooms, brushed their teeth, completed their homework, and developed at least one talent. Then TV would be a powerful motivator.
One of the key concepts behind Moneypants is to use what you already have to help motivate everyone. Leverage your time, energy, money, and resources to help everyone develop their talents (superpowers) and work ethic. There is no need for additional expenses. Just like in my family where we used the movie night to help everyone stay focused and motivated, you can use whatever resources you may have to help every family member become their best.
Also, creating layered rewards has some distinct benefits. Think of it kind of like a fruit parfait. Some family members love strawberries. Others like yogurt. Others love granola. But everyone likes the parfait. It’s all those things combined. When you layer rewards, you cast a wide net. You help ensure every member of the family gets motivated.
Maybe someone in the family isn’t that interested in cash but really loves social events. Or maybe they really love computer time. Or doing a cooking project. Or going on a drive. Or watching their favorite TV show. When creating rewards, be sure to include all these. When you cast a wide net, your rewards will work across all the different personalities and age groups in your family. This includes adults, teens, kids, and toddlers.
The 6 Layers of Moneypants Rewards
With that said, we have six specific layers of rewards we use in Moneypants. You can use all of them, some of them, or a combination. The more you use together, the more effective your rewards will be. They are:
- Job Bonus
- Habit Bonus
- Mastery Points
Layered Reward #1: Payday
This should go without saying: payday is when you reward your kids with cold, hard cash. The money that you hand over is a physical representation of all their hard work. They can then translate that cash into rewards. This is all set up when they create their spending plan. We wrote a great blog about it and also did a podcast. Click here to listen to the podcast. In short, payday is the glue that holds the Moneypants system together. It should happen every week.
Layered Reward #2: Privileges
We mentioned how easy it is to turn regular items into rewards. We used movie night to help motivate our kids when we had nothing else to use. But parents sometimes forget how many things they give their kids for free. It would be so much better for everyone if some of the privileges were reserved as a reward. Take these opportunities and reframe them as rewards. That’s the essence of leverage: using what you already have in order to motivate behavior and habits you and your family want.
There’s the great quote: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they want to achieve.” As leaders in the family, parents have not only the right but the obligation to help their children succeed.
A good way to approach this is whenever you hear your kids say something like, “Mom, can I go…?” Or, “Dad, can I use the car to…?” That’s a golden opportunity for your kids. You simply respond by saying, “Yes, as soon as your weekly jobs are done and passed off.” Or, “Absolutely you can use the car this weekend. Just make sure you earn you habit bonus and don’t have any fees.”
The "If...Then" Principle
This is the cherished, “If…Then” principle, also known as “Grandma’s rule”. If you do X, then you can do Y. The X is the thing the kid doesn’t really want to do, and the Y is the thing (reward) the kid really, really wants. That’s that leadership idea from above. As the parents, we give our kids chores and tasks that they may not really want to do. In return, though, the kids get what they want.
Maybe your son wants to learn piano, but he doesn’t enjoy playing scales and practicing every day. Well, the short-term reward is being able to mark his point chart that he practiced piano. Then on payday he gets paid in cash for his effort. A layered reward would be allowing him to watch a half hour of his favorite show when he’s done. Another layered reward would be to allow him to go play with friends on Friday if he has completed his practicing all week. That’s the concept of layered rewards.
The nice thing is, these short-term rewards help your son get through the drudgery of daily practice in order to accomplish what he really wants: to play piano at the Christmas pageant.
Using privileges as rewards can have drawbacks, though. Going back to when we were financially destitute, we had a tough time motivating good behavior. There was a lot of nagging, yelling, and threatening. We found ourselves just logging our children onto the computers and letting them play for hours at a time. It was better than fighting.
Fast forward a couple of years when we got back on our feet financially. We tried to put a stop to the unfettered access to the computers. Our kids would have none of it. They got very upset that we would dare take away their precious computer time. In their minds, it was their right. How could we take it away or limit it? What type of monsters were we, anyway?
If your kids are used to getting anything and everything they want when they want it, you may get some pushback. They won’t like having their privileges reduced or limited. A good way to frame it would be to have a family council. Tell your family you are going to be limiting certain things, like computer time or access to the TV. Explain why. Tell everyone that it’s time to start developing their superpowers, and that unlimited access to entertainment is like kryptonite.
When holding family council, the goal is to get everyone on board. Help your family realize that privileges are just that: privileges. They come as a reward for certain behaviors. And then you can set up what those behaviors are. Make sure you are clear when creating layered rewards.
The app is a good place to start. Use the job and habit descriptions to fill in what the requirements are, but also what the rewards are. That way it’s written down and very clear. No fights. Everyone agrees. And be sure to get your family’s input. Everyone needs to be heard. We’ll talk more about effective family councils in a future article.
Some of the things you can use as rewards include:
- Social Outings
- Sports Practices and Games
- Family Trips
- TV and Computer Time
- Phone Use
Sports As A Privilege?
For example, you could easily tell you daughter Sally that in order for her to go to soccer practice, she has to have her job done and also her room clean and her homework completed. Then, on practice day, it’s up to her if she wants to go.
My wife jokes that she never gets upset when the kids don’t get to go to practice. It’s one less trip she has to make that day! In all seriousness, though, she does not get upset when one of the kids doesn’t make it to practice because they didn’t get their job done. For most parents, that would be sacrilege. They’ve paid hundreds of dollars for their kids to play sports. They’re not about to keep them home from practice because their daughter didn’t wipe the table.
But remember with Moneypants, the parents aren’t the ones paying for sports. The kids are. They are the ones who earned the money and paid for everything themselves. That’s the great thing about using sports as a privilege. The parents don’t have to get upset if the kid misses practice. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s the kid who gets upset. But more importantly, they are motivated during the week to get their jobs done. It’s one more layer of motivation.
Layered Reward #3: Treats
Treats are a great place to find layered rewards. After all, there’s a reason we call them treats: they are supposed to be special and uncommon. If you have constant access to candy and ice cream, they are no longer special. They are just more foods. We suggest that you can use these items as layered rewards. As an added benefit, by limiting access to candy and treats, you will also be contributing to the overall health of your family.
For example, my wife used to buy lots of ice cream. We love ice cream in our family. There was always a tub of something delicious in the freezer. Then one day, my wife realized we were eating too much ice cream. She decided to change that and turn it into a layered reward. She still bought ice cream, but nobody was allowed to have any until the weekend. She told everyone that the ice cream was reserved for those who completed their Saturday (weekly) jobs.
It was a big hit. Saturday jobs are typically more difficult. They take longer. Plus, they are in addition to already difficult daily jobs. Why not have an additional motivator in there to keep up the energy? Treats work really well for that. The best part is, they are immediate. Unlike payday, which only happens once a week, you can hand out treats right away. They are a great reinforcer for good behavior and work.
Treats For Toddlers
When it comes to toddlers, treats work really well. In a future blog, we’ll share my wife’s method of teaching toddlers to work and help out around the house. It’s really fun to watch, and the toddlers absolutely love it. They see everyone else working and want to help out, and we reward them for that.
The Reader’s Digest version is this: my wife will show our toddler five jellybeans (or tic tacs, or cheezits, or another small treat) that they can earn. She will then give them a small task (like putting the couch cushions back on the couch). As soon as they finish, they get one jellybean. They are ecstatic. They got a jellybean for helping out! She will then give them another quick task and a jellybean for completing it. Within a few minutes, the jobs are done, and the jellybeans are gone. The toddler is learning to work. Nice!
Layered Reward #4: The Job Bonus
This one is big. The job bonus is extremely powerful. In fact, it’s one of the first things we programmed when we created the Moneypants app. The number one goal of Moneypants is to teach work ethic. And the only way to do that is to work. You want your kids to do their jobs rain or shine, whether they feel like it or not. That’s how we develop work ethic. And ultimately, that is the single biggest element to future success in life.
The great thing about the job bonus is that it is a large sum of money. If you work hard the entire week and don’t miss a single day of doing your daily jobs around the house—you will earn your job bonus. We used to call it the consistency bonus, but it’s the same thing. Work ethic is essentially consistency of effort.
When you earn you job bonus, you basically double your daily job earnings for the week. That’s because the job bonus is 20% of your total weekly earnings. Say you are supposed to be able to earn $50 every week. That means that your job bonus is a whopping $10. That’s a chunk of change!
So, when job time seems to be dragging on and you feel like quitting, there is that additional layered reward looming over you, motivating you to keep going. That job bonus is powerful. I have found that despite my own personally extremely busy life, I make sure to find time to do my daily jobs. I don’t want to miss out on that bonus. I say to myself, “It’ll only take 20 minutes!” It really does work.
That brings up the flip side to the job bonus. What if you don’t do your job? Well, that’s a $10 loss. That’s $10 towards soccer, or basketball shoes, or new clothes, or scout camp—that’s $10 you just lost. True, while that is a negative consequence (which we try to minimize or limit), it is nevertheless powerful. Sometimes trying to avoid a negative consequence is just as effective as working hard to obtain a positive one.
At this point, though, some parents may think all motivation is lost once you lose your job bonus. “Why would my kid try?” they would say. Luckily, we have dealt with that in our own family. The simple solution is this: if a kid doesn’t do their job and loses their bonus, they’re still going to be motivated to work. Why? Because if they don’t, they have to hire a substitute with their own money. The job still has to get done. Somebody has to do it. It’s still their stewardship, even if they don’t do it. So, they use their own money to hire someone else to do it. And that money is overtime money. They are paying a lot of money to someone else to do their own job. (We’ll talk more about substitutes in a future blog post. Stay tuned!)
Suffice it to say, there are lots of reasons that the job bonus motivates work ethic. It’s a great layer to that delicious parfait!
Layered Reward #5: The Habit Bonus
Then there is the habit bonus. It’s similar to the job bonus. The main difference is in how you earn it.
Unlike daily jobs, habits are a lot harder to accomplish. I am a responsible, mature adult. I have ten habits in the app. In my years of using Moneypants (either on paper or with the app), I have never once complete 100% of my habits. I’ve come close, but never 100%.
The program is actually designed that way. You should always be stretching yourself. If you find that you are consistently completing 100% of your habits, it’s time to upgrade your habits. Make them a little harder. Challenge yourself.
With that in mind, the way the habit bonus works is this. You have to earn at least 75% of your potential habit points to get your bonus. Say, for instance, that you are supposed to earn 1000 points (that’s $10, by the way) for all your habits. You would have to earn at least 750 points to get your bonus. Once you get to that magical 75% mark, the app will alert you that you made it.
You will see a big jump in your earnings. Just like the job bonus, the habit bonus is 20% of your total earnings for the week. When you earn your bonus, as in the example above, it’s $10. Nice!
The best part? You are getting rewarded for things you wanted to do anyway. You are literally developing your superpowers and getting paid to do it. It’s layers of layered rewards!
Layer #6: Mastery Points
If treats are the immediate reward, and if payday is the short-term reward, then mastery is long-term reward. This is especially important for teenagers and adults. This is where deferred gratification comes in. We are going to have to address this one in its own blog in the future. Mastery is a huge topic. We’ll just go over it briefly here.
Mastery points are earned every time you go an entire week without missing a single day on a daily job or habit. One mastery point equals one week of work. In order to earn a mere 10 mastery points, it would take you two and a half months! This is why mastery points are more of a long-term reward.
The idea is to attach major rewards to a certain number of mastery points. Ideally, a job or habit is “mastered” when the person earns 26 points. That’s 26 weeks of consistent work—that’s half a year. You can attach a reward at 10 points, 25 points, 50 points, or even 100 points. Those are big.
Other Long-Term Goals
You can set up other long-term goals outside of mastery. For example, our 12-year-old son Caleb wanted to earn his Eagle Scout award, but he got a late start. We didn’t have the resources to help him like he needed. He was going to have to do a lot of it on his own. Anyone who has earned their Eagle knows the sheer volume of work it is. Most Boy Scouts never make it to the rank of Eagle.
So, we made Caleb a deal. If he earned his Eagle before he turned age 16, he could have the old (but really cool) Datsun 280ZX I had parked in the garage. That was a 4-year goal he set for himself. And notice that we used something we already had as a reward. For us, it was an old car. For you, it may be that senior class trip to Europe. Or a graduation shopping spree for college clothes. Or a million other things that you already have or that are already in the family budget.
The point is to use those big-ticket items to your advantage. Use them to create long-term goals and rewards for your family members. In the case of our son Caleb, that Datsun 280ZX sitting in the garage was enough to motivate him all those summers and all those years to pursue his Eagle. And you know what? He earned it. Three weeks before his 16th birthday, he passed his Eagle board of review.
Layered Rewards Discouragement?
If you don’t use layered rewards to your advantage, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. After all, the point is to help everyone develop work ethic and their superpowers. That’s at the core of everything we do as parents (and as leaders and as coaches, for that matter). If, however, you find yourself getting discouraged, or second-guessing yourself, remember the leadership quote from above:
“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they want to achieve.”
The key is to use and leverage the limited time, money, and resources that we have to motivate healthy habits and work ethic. It’s totally worth it!
The Biggest Reward
Ultimately, the biggest reward for your family members is success. They will succeed at anything they want to do. Whether it’s developing their talents, getting good grades, playing piano, or becoming great at basketball or any other sport.
Then there’s employment. Anybody who hires them, they will stand out. They will be head and shoulders better at working than anybody their age. When opportunities come their way, they’ll be ready for them. Your family will make most of any opportunity that comes. Success is when preparation and opportunity meet.
Also, they will be better at service. When you have work ethic, you are able to serve in ways that others simply cannot. You can give so much more if you know how to work.
The biggest reward is becoming who you are meant to become. And all with the help of the delicious 6-layered rewards parfait.
What about you? Do you use layered rewards? What layered rewards do you use to motivate yourself and your family? Are there any “hidden” rewards you may have overlooked? What ideas did we miss? Leave a comment below.