Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Ever since about mid way through the last school year, I've been pondering some sort of points or reward system for Luke to encourage good behavior. Not sure what was up with him, but sometime after Christmas, his usual good behavior (especially at school) really took a nose dive. We learned long ago that motivation with him is key. I could have gone with the "points" system, where certain behaviors earn certain points that can then be redeemed for rewards. I had a loose list of behaviors I wanted to work on, but I wasn't sure that just points would really do the trick. A friend suggested tickets, like you earn at the arcade, which is almost what I went with, but it still didn't feel like *the* idea. I'm very much an "I'll know it when I see it" type person, and I knew I just had not hit on the right concept yet. But, I wanted to implement the new system with the new school year, and it was coming down to the wire!

Then two weekends before school was to start, Luke was poking around in a closet in the basement and found our still factory sealed X-Men Monopoly game. He'd never played Monopoly, had no idea what it was, but he wanted to open that thing so bad! Um, no, but we *do* have an open Star Wars Monopoly game, let's play with that instead. And from that moment on, he was hooked. It is all he has wanted to do every day since, come home and play Monopoly.

Lightbulb!! What if the properties were behaviors, and he earned them by performing the desired behavior? ::ding ding:: In two days, I had cracked out the basics of what I wanted. Within another two days, I had named all of the properties (thanks to my bulletin board buddies for some of the names, or for the inspiration that led to other names!), and I made all of the properties and cards and money in a single night.

I present Behavioropoly!

These are the properties you can earn. There are 25 of them, color coded by category.

- Reading (black): Reading Railroad (red property), Chapter Choo-Choo, Author Express, Bookworm Boxcar
- Sight Words (white): Flash Card Company, Site Word Works (red property)
- Chores [specific chores shown on cards] (pink): Laundry Lane, Grocery Avenue, Kitty Corner
- Trying New Foods (orange): New Flavor Drive, Tasting Trail (red property)
- Setting the Table (yellow): Flatware Avenue, Plate Place, Napkin Lane
- Behavior (green): School Stoplight Square (red property), Manners Drive, Good Behavior Place
- Homework [without fussing/whining] (blue): Homework Drive, Math Square, Language Arts Avenue
- Bedtime Fast (purple): Pajama Place (red property), Toothbrush Trail (red property), Bedtime Boulevard, Get Changed Lane, Slumber Street

Instead of a board, there is a list showing how many in what categories there are to earn:

The term "red property" that follows some of the property names correspond to the pink numbers you see on the list (the properties are also marked with pink dollar signs instead of green). I wanted certain behaviors to happen for sure, or there would be a penalty. He gets enough "money" each week to buy every property in play. For simplicity's sake, that means 20 green dollars (instead of 19), 6 red dollars, and one "gold" reward card to start each week.

If you haven't purchased all 6 of your red properties with your red dollars by the end of the week, you have to give me a green for each red you still have. You also must pay a green if you earn any "Attitude Adjustment" cards (the orange ones below; think Chance and Community Chest) for misbehaving, earning a Talk Back Tax or a Not Listening Tax (Luxury Tax or Income Tax on the original board). If you do not have any greens left when you are taxed, then you will receive a red dollar, which you must then pay out of next week's "salary." Extra greens can be earned for performing the behavior more times than there are properties, like doing sight words a third time in a week. There are also "behavior bonus" cards (the yellow ones below) for extra special occasions. Still not sure yet if those will be greens or golds; maybe one green for each, unless you get three and then you can have a gold? Obviously, I'm still ironing out some of the specifics.

If you earn all properties in a group, you get a "gold" (akin to buying houses or hotels in the game). I really wanted to use gold coins for this, but it was too hard to find something to easily hold them where he could still see them. Luke is such a visual person (gee, I wonder where he gets that from) that being able to see his properties and his money is very important. It's easier with the cards, because we can just drop them in this magnetic basket on the refrigerator, which we keep right at his eye level.

But I still wanted the golds to be special, so I made up our own symbol: a G (for gold) with two lines through it, similar to the S with lines through it for the dollars. If I'd had a gold metallic pen, I'd have used it! Maybe in the next version.... The golds are what you actually use to purchase rewards, like a piece of candy after dinner (cost is one gold, limited to 4 times a week and assumes you ate enough of your dinner), or saving them up for things like Pokemon cards or a small LEGO set. We're still working out the specifics of the reward system. Right now, he's just excited about earning properties, which is fine.

It is still a work in progress. I only had about 10 days from concept to when it had to be put in place, and I'm sure it will need some tweaking along the way. For starters, we need to see how he does on which categories. Three might be too hard in some cases, or too easy in others. Since we're not restricted by a board, I can have as many or as few properties in a category as needed. I want him to do well and not get discouraged, so it can't be too hard (but I don't want it too easy, either).

There are other details I haven't worked out yet, some of them even very basic. Like:
- Should he get the greens at the beginning of the week and have to buy the properties as he earns them? Or should he just earn the properties outright (except the red properties)?
-How many golds for various rewards? I'm sort of waiting to see how many he will typically earn in a week before I set that number. I'm thinking Pokemon cards every couple of weeks, and maybe a small LEGO set or pack of Star Wars figures in 4-6 weeks. Remember, I'm still not working, so we have to factor in what we can afford! I could also use some other smaller fun reward ideas, if you have any (a new coloring book is about the only other idea I've had).
-What about properties earned but didn't make the set to convert to gold? It doesn't seem fair for him to not get to keep some reward for them. That's where I'm pondering going to earning the properties outright, without having to buy them. Then, for any not converted to gold buy getting the whole set, he can get a green back. Then I'll need some sort of conversion rate for green to gold (maybe 20) so he will eventually get something for the properties he earns that don't make a set.

There will be other improvements as well. Eventually, each card will have some sort of fun clip art or something on it, like various trains for the reading cards, etc. I didn't have a ton of time to spend on it, and I didn't want to spend a bunch of time if it's not going to work. But if it does seem to be working, I'll probably make them out of poster board or heavy card stock next time. (I don't recall index cards being so flimsy when I was a kid!)

As I said, it is still a work in progress, but overall, I'm very proud of the idea and how well it has worked in the first few days. I can tell you that his speed with getting ready for bed has increased dramatically! He was lollygagging for a good 20 minutes just to change his clothes and brush his teeth. It was driving us crazy! Now, it's about 5 minutes flat. Awesome! And he is very interested in completing sets after purchasing his first piece of after dinner candy, too. But I am open to suggestions, so if you have any, please let me know!

Currently feeling: monopolistic


  1. On the green card issue, if he has to buy his unearned red properties with green cards, what happens if he earns a property and doesn't have a green to buy it with? I think it would be better if he just earned the properties and then you could give him say 3 greens a week as an allowance of sorts.

  2. More thoughts,

    How about if, when he earns a red card, he gets to exchange it for a green. Then he has a double incentive for earning the reds. Also some other prizes could include, dinner at McDonalds, having a friend spend the night, an extra hour of cartoons or video games, staying up later on Friday nights...



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