Pointers on Points

By , January 13, 2010 4:14 pm

I am annoyed.  My 7 year-old son has begun frequently yelling at his sisters, my 4-going-on-44-year-old is becoming bossier than me, and horror of horrors, I swear I caught my 9 year-old ruffling her feathers and giving me an eye roll!   It is clearly time to reinstate our point system which has fallen by the wayside of late.

Here’s how it works:  Everyone starts with 5 points.  Each child can earn points for “good” behavior and lose points for “bad” behavior.  The goal is to reach 30 points at which time that child chooses from a list of non-material rewards, for example a “date” with Mom or Dad, ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, Kids Cook Night, make cookies, etc. (no money or purchases).

If someone gets to 0 points then they must miss the next bi-weekly class ski/swim trip (during the school year), or they must choose a random chore from the chore basket (summertime).

We keep a list of sample point-gaining behaviors and point-losing behaviors posted on the wall next to the point chart.  The children and I came up with the list together so they have ownership of the consequences of certain actions.  The list is not definitive and I am the final decision-maker as to when a point is earned or deducted.

The system is flexible.  For example when I got tired of all three children having “bad dreams” and ending up in my bed every single night, I started the policy that they would lose a point for every night they came into bed with me and earn a point for every night they stayed in their own bed.  That didn’t work, so I changed it to losing 2 points for coming into bed with me but earning 1 point for staying in their own beds.  Like magic, the “bad dreams” disappeared!  (Note:  Of course if they REALLY have a bad dream, they can still come to bed with me – for free.  Like most mothers, I can tell when the need is real.)


  • Flexible to suit changing behavioral goals.
  • Not entirely negative/punishment based.  The system rewards positive behavior.
  • Easy to keep track:  I track all points on a dry erase board hung on the pantry wall.
  • Does not rely on money, allowances or material goods as an incentive or punishment.
  • I can spontaneously say “Go give yourself a point” when I observe (or am told of) a random really kind or helpful behavior.
  • Sorry, but in my house this is NOT a democratic process.  I am the final judge, jury and arbitrator of points, rewards and sentences, (although the children can make recommendations or defend themselves).

What do you do to maintain order?

17 Responses to “Pointers on Points”

  1. Momma Mindy says:

    I appreciated what you shared about the bad-dream dilemna, good advice. I, too, want to be loving when they really need love, otherwise, I really need sleep to be a loving mother the next day!

  2. Summer says:

    I like this point idea! I think I’m going to give it a try with my 5-going-on-15 year old. :)
    .-= Summer´s last blog ..Typical Toddler Speech Development =-.

  3. Rana says:

    I have something similar from ListPlanIt.com it’s called “Caught you doing good” chart. It list outstanding behaviors that you fill in yourself such as No hitting, Not yelling, picking up toys,etc. with the days of the week across the top. When you see them doing something nice, or helping out you put a check mark. Hey when is our next Unplugged Project?
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  4. Jenny says:

    Thanks for stopping by the blog after my prolonged absence. :o)

    First of all, I can’t believe your little one is 4. Wasn’t she just 2?! I really like the point system. Up to now, we’ve just used behavior charts to target one problem behavior at a time. I like the all-encompassing nature of your system, along with the positive reinforcement. Great food for thought, as usual!

  5. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Rana – I’ve let the Unplugged Project fall by the wayside lately. I wasn’t getting to it, and it seemed that there weren’t many other people doing it either. I thought I’d give it a bit of a break. But perhaps I should put up a new theme on Sunday if you and any other people are interested. I hope your holidays were good!

  6. Mom Unplugged says:

    Let me know how it works Summer!

  7. Mom Unplugged says:

    Yes, we all need our sleep! I don’t want to come across as an ogre, but when you know it isn’t genuine and they ALL end up in bed with you, something has to be done. Hopefully this solution will work for you too. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Alex says:

    Ha ha ha my ex owns a bike shop and they have a “firedometer” in the back room. The guys get more and less “fired” for extra good/bad behavior. They love it. No parenting tips but I had to tell you that.

  9. Mom Unplugged says:

    That’s funny. I used to manage a business and I always felt it was a lot like running a daycare full of 2 year-olds, so I can see that similar discipline techniques would be very effective!

  10. misty says:

    I just started a similar system for my six and three year old boys. They earn buttons in a jar for good behaviors, some are taken away for extremely bad behaviors. This is how they earn all their screen time and treats. Working pretty well so far!

  11. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thanks for the input, I am happy to learn everyone’s tricks. Glad it works!

  12. Meg says:

    Hey! Still very interested in Unplugged Projects…I’m not quite ready for it, but you could loan the project to another site if you need more of a break. I’ll bet a few of the other mommies would do it!

  13. Dayna says:

    Well I read this post and thought…hmmm not sure if that would work in our house…And then the baby-talk would not end and the cranky cleanups continued. I threw up a quick piece of paper and promised a family movie night with home popped popcorn after 30 points. My husband and I didn’t give it much value….BUT let me tell ya!!! Working like a charm with our near 5 year old. We love praising the good behavior and after 4 days or so we have only had to take away one point. My husband even offered my daughter a way to earn back her lost point. We have happy cats as they are being fed willingly, a clean toy room, full sentences, and a return to manners. Yesterday I even dished out two points for bravery. We are well on our way to a FREE night in as a family – what better reward then that? Once we reach our goal I will have to post about it.

    THANKS for the nudge and idea :)

  14. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hooray! I am so glad this is working for you. When I first started trying this, I too was astonished at how well and quickly it worked! I hope you get that family night soon. I look forward to reading your blog post, let me know when it’s up!

  15. Mom Unplugged says:

    That’s a good idea Meg. I thought about that, but I actually think what I am going to do is make each theme a monthly, rather than weekly event. That’ll let more people join in since they’ll have more time, and maybe I’ll even be able to do it too! I’ll post about my new plan over the weekend…with a new theme. Thanks for the comment!

  16. SarahJ says:

    i really like this idea. as our kids get older and we hope to adopt we’re having to think about other discipline methods. i love this! i love that it rewards for good behavior is such a tangible way.

  17. Mom Unplugged says:

    It has worked well for me. I like the positive aspect too!

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