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This video gives you the details on the fifth, final, and very fun step of the Choice Chart, Step 5, which is The Payday Dinner. Also, learn exactly how to introduce the Choice Chart to your children!

Click here to get PDFs of The Rules, Choice Charts for 1 – 4 children, as well as language you can use to explain the rules and introduce the Choice Chart to your children.

Click here for Word versions of Choice Charts for 1 – 4 children which can be used to customize the chart for your children.

Ok, now for the The Payday Dinner.

The fifth, final, and very fun and important part of the Choice Chart system is the payday dinner. First, I’ll share the philosophical reason for the payday dinner, then the nitty gritty how-to.

This includes my beliefs on money as it relates to choices in life and why I do not give children allowance.

The philosophy behind the Payday Dinner

First, it has pretty much been shown through extensive research that money does not make us happy, that is, if you couldn’t tell that just by looking around. One of the best things I have seen or read about happiness is the simple documentary called “Happy.” You might want to check it out. It’s also great to watch with kids aged 10 and up.

Yet, living within your means and having enough extra money to experience the things you want to experience in life does create the feeling of having choices. And, I believe that having choices does allow us to create more happiness in our lives, so by association, having more money holds the possibility of creating more happiness.

Choices = More opportunities for happiness

There’s a lot more I could say on this, but that’s the simplest way to put it for the purposes of the Choice Chart. So, unless you live in a non-commerce society, money is at the root of many of the choices we are able to make in life.

In most cultures, if you work smart and make good choices, you will be able to earn more money. If you also have the skills to manage that money, no matter the amount, then the money you earn can help you create a life full of choices.

The Choice Chart uses this fact.

This is what I teach my children. The Payday dinner is one part of that.

But first, a few words on chores and allowance.

I don’t pay for kids for chores. In our home, we all do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. I ask different kids to do different things at different times and they don’t get paid to do any of it. They do it because they get to live in the home and enjoy all the benefits of living here free of charge.

It’s our home. We messy it and we tidy it together.

I don’t have a chore chart delineating set chores for set children, although for some that works really well, and if it works for you, then go for it, it won’t detract from the choice chart.

The Payday Dinner takes the place of allowance in our home. This is because I am not going to pay the kids for chores, but I am going to pay them for being cooperative members of our family.

For me, this mirrors the reward that comes to people in adult life when they work smart and are a cooperative, contributing member of society. I am always looking for the mirror. That is, how does what I’m doing as a parent mirror what happens in adult life?

So, when things need to be done, I just say, “Thomas, please take this trash out.” Or, “Kenzie and Addison, you have the dishes tonight.” Or, I’ll say, “Someone needs to swiffer and someone else needs to pick up all the stuff that’s laying out. You guys figure it out.” Usually they have preferred chores and can negotiate it between themselves.

Although rare, I’ve even had one kid pay the other kid to do their share!

Sometimes, if there’s a lot that needs to be done, I make a list of the things and tape it up. I get everyone and say, “Ok, we are all going to complete this list. Who wants to pick first?” They all want to pick first, so they can pick their preferred chore or what they perceive to be the easiest chore.

The first child takes the pen and crosses off what they are going to do, then the next, then the next, then the next, then me, and we all keep going back to the list until it is complete.

Even if it’s just you and one child, you can use this type of chore list. Or, the two of you can work as a team and cross each item off together.

I haven’t had problems with someone not doing their share because the negative social feedback they would get from the rest of us would be enough to make them want to be a contributing member. When we are finished, everyone feels great and of course the house is in better shape, so everything feels more fun.

If someone was disgruntled and causing problems for some reason, of course, they would get a penalty, which would be served AFTER they completed their chores. They know this, and this is what squashes any grumbling.

If someone is needing support or has had a particularly tough day in some other way, I might say, “I’m going to team with Addison today, because I can tell he needs some extra love.” The other kids are fine with this, because they know I will do it with them when they need it.

Now we have reached the nitty-gritty how-to for the Payday Dinner.

You can have a Payday dinner every month, or every week, or even every day if needed. We did it every month. However, if you are just starting out, or if you have younger children, a month may be too long to wait to have it work as a motivator.

So, you may want to start with one week in the beginning, then extend it. For a younger child, or a child who is very impulsive and needing quicker reward, you can pay out every night until they learn to delay gratification a bit longer.

Delaying gratification is an essential life skill, and a fundamental part of raising happy kids, so look out for an upcoming video on just that topic.

Decide what night you will have the payday dinner. If you have a family calendar, put it on the calendar, so everyone knows the dinner is coming.

When my kids see it on there, the hum begins, “Payday dinner is Thursday…” “Did you see payday dinner is Thursday?…” etc. They look forward to it.

Before the day of the dinner, count up the stickers for each child and write the number next to their name on the chart.

Decide what amount of money you will give per sticker. I give $1 per sticker up to age 12, then $2 per sticker 13 and up. This is the amount of money I’d like my children to have given their ages.

A younger child might only need the sticker, and does not care about money. Or, a shiny quarter per sticker may do the trick. Or you may decide to buy them a specific toy, treat, or outing you agree upon when they achieve a certain number of stickers. Make it work for you.

Do the minimum amount that motivates your child and fits for you, modifying as your children get older.

Get the money and put it on the table with the chart. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to get cash so your kids can see it. With four, I had to go to the bank because I usually needed a significant amount and wanted to have just the right bills to give each child.

So, if a child can earn one dollar per day, how much money does the average child earn in one month?

On average, you can expect a child to earn about $15 – $25 per month. Although the pattern does not always follow age, as a child gets older, they should earn more, meaning they should be earning fewer and fewer penalties.

Put the cash and the chart on the center of the table before dinner. This is very visual for children and becomes part of their memory traces around the Choice Chart all month long.

After we had been doing the Choice Chart for a year or so, I stopped getting cash and instead took their bank books to the bank and did the deposits there, letting the teller write in their books. Then, I would just put the bank books and the deposit slips on the table.

They liked looking at their balances and watching them grow. Sometimes they’d spend it, sometimes they’d save and save, and then open a CD. It’s their money. It’s not a college fund and while I do discuss their spending and saving choices with them, I do not control what they do with it.

Letting your child have a bank account they control (in addition to the account you create for college or other purposes) creates many great opportunities to teach your kids about earning, saving, investing, and spending money.

After everyone is done eating, it’s time for payday. Pass out the money or bank books. Let everyone see what they earned. While it’s not a surprise, since they can see the chart all month long and know what they are earning, they still love seeing the final amount in their hands.

The payday dinner is not a time to go back and rehash any bad days. It’s a time to say, “Here you go,” and move forward. Don’t let anyone be negative toward a child who may have had a rough week or month.

Celebrate each other’s successes and enjoy your meal. Use a family meeting or an individual chit-chat to talk about issues, not the payday dinner.

Once again, the Choice Chart is just one part of many resources that are or will become available at Daychild. Some of the other videos and e-books you will want to check out are The Chit-Chat, The Family Meeting, Behavior-Specific Modification Strategies, The Role of Executive Functions, and Manners First.

Now, here are some ideas about how to introduce the Choice Chart to your children so you can start using it.

Decide when you want to start. If possible, pick a time that you can be with your children for a few days in a row at home, with no work or school, such as on a Friday afternoon.

Plan a low-key weekend filled with regular family stuff at home when both parents are there. If you are single or there is rarely a time when both parents are home, pick a day that makes sense for you.

Both parents should sit down with all of the children at the same time to introduce the Choice Chart.

If your child or children are 3 or 4 years old, you don’t have to introduce the choice chart, just start doing it. If they are 5 or older, you will want to introduce it in a more formal way, so your children will know what is about to happen to them!

If you are married, it is critical that both parents introduce the chart together. Wait to find a time so this can happen. If you are not married but your children’s other parent will also be implementing this system and you get along well, then introduce it together at either home.

Many families who have two separate homes both used the system with great success. If you are not married and the other parent will not be using the Choice Chart, that’s ok, it can still work beautifully in your home.

Begin by explaining how much you love your family and what having a family means to you. Explain how you want to have even more love and fun together as a family. Let your children know that you have come up with a way to help everyone have more fun.

You can say, “We made you so we could have fun with you. And now, we want to start having even more fun as a family. So, we are going to talk about some rules, consequences, and rewards, that will help us to do that going forward.”

Show the rule chart. Explain what it looks like and what it sounds like to be in line with each rule. Talk about it for the adults, too.

Over the years, many people have asked me what they should actually say for each rule. So, here is what I would say:

The first rule is: We cooperate. This means we participate in our family with a cooperative attitude. The prefix “co” means “with,” so to cooperate means to co-operate, or to operate together. When we are operating together, life is more fun. This means you are doing what helps the family, or the group as a whole, at any given time. Sometimes being cooperative will mean you are doing something you’ve been asked to do. Other times being cooperative will mean you stop doing something you are asked to stop doing. Being cooperative will help our family have more fun.

The second rule is: We speak kindly. This means that we use a kind tone of voice and that we use kind words to express our feelings, even when we are upset. Being sad, frustrated, or angry does not give any one of us the right to speak rudely or in a mean way to someone in our family. Going forward, we will all speak kindly to one another.

And the third rule is: We keep our hands, feet, and other objects to ourselves. This means we will only touch each other in loving ways, and we will not hurt each other with objects, or throw things, even if you think it’s just playing. This rule will help everyone in our family to know they are physically safe. Even when you are very frustrated, you may not hit, push, or be mean physically in any other way.

Explain that the rules apply to everyone in the family because these are the rules that will help the family to be strong and to help each person have high levels of integrity and self-respect

self-respect = the ultimate goal

If you have typically been someone who yells at your children and you will be working on not doing that anymore, let your children know this.

Explain that one verbal redirection will be given and that you will say nothing else. Let them know that if they do not respond right away to the redirection, they will go to their isolation place for thirty minutes.

Be sure to let them know where the isolation place is, and what your expectations are for their behavior on the way to isolation, as well as during isolation.

When I say, “You have a penalty,” you are to walk immediately to your bedroom (or designated place).
You are not to argue or talk back to me, or do any other behavior that could earn you another penalty.
If you choose to be uncooperative once I have said, “You have a penalty,” you will get another penalty, right then.
In that case, instead of 30 minutes, it will be an hour. If you continue, you’ll get a 3rd penalty, and you’ll be out for the rest of the day.
So, it’s in your best interest to be cooperative.

Explain that if they do not cooperate with the isolation, they will have another penalty. If you’ve made any adjustments, communicate those.

Explain again, that if they receive a third penalty, they are out for the rest of the day.

Show the choice chart and stickers to your children. Tell them that for each isolation, they will get a tally mark in their box. Let them know that only adults can mark the penalties.

Let them know that every day they have a fresh start, a new chance to earn a sticker. Explain what time of day you have chosen to put the stickers on and that they get to put their sticker on.

Explain the value you have decided on per sticker, whether it’s a quarter, a dollar, an earned treat. Explain how this money will be given at the payday dinner, either once per week, or once per month, whichever you have decided to start with.

If your children do not already have a bank account, it’s fun to go together to open the accounts. You would just need to do this before the first Payday dinner.

Post The Rules and the empty Choice Chart for the month. You don’t have to start on the first day of the month. Just start when you want to start.

Have a pen and the stickers handy. Keep their bank books in a safe place and put them on the table at each payday dinner, and depending on how old and how responsible your children are, be sure to collect them after for safe-keeping, or help your child select a safe place in their room to store their bank book.

Let the fun and love begin.

To ask Cara a specific question about the Choice Chart or any other topic, join us on our Forum at Daychild.org. If you like this, please share it with your friends!