A guest post from Kate Allen, a stay at home mother formerly employed in education and human services. She resides in the United States.
Rather than traditional enforcement, it’s a good idea to encourage your kids to make the right choice on their own. Nudge theory is a more pleasant and subtle approach to modifying behavior. You feel successful in your teaching and they have ownership in their decisions and are more likely to make the right choice again. Most of these ideas are fun and could be considered Gamification. Other ideas promote a subtle way to steer people in the right direction.
Giving Limited Choices
One way to encourage your kids to earn more and save more is to offer limited choices. If you give kids or anyone a large list of options they’re likely to opt out because they’d rather not make a decision. It’s not worth the end reward. This has been shown for websites that limit their social media buttons. People are more likely to share information if they only have a few choices. This could translate to earning money for chores as well. Of course there’s 20 things that need to be done in your house, but maybe you should only give your kids 2-3 choices at a time. This works for classroom responsibilities too. They can always come back for more if the reward is motivating enough.
Stack overflow encourages helping and engagement among programmers by giving out badges. Badges indicate a certain status. This can be particularly important to kids. You can make kids feel proud when making smarter decisions. Special labels show their rank and specific achievements (iron bladder shown in this classroom). Saving tokens or money for one day could earn them a Fund Finder Badge. For one week maybe a Cash Collector Badge. Maybe two weeks could earn them a Scrupulous Squirrel Badge (saving for the winter). Here’s are some resources on getting badges in a classroom.
Implementing a lottery system has been shown to be effective at getting people to go the speed limit in Stockholm, Sweden. Here’s the video on the application of Fun Theory. In order to encourage saving an extra incentive can be introduced. Once a child has saved a certain amount of points or cash they could have the option to enter a lottery to win prizes. Students could compete with others or a random number generator (even dice) to determine whether they won. If they lose they should be prompted to keep saving and they’ll get another chance at the lottery in the future.
Ranking systems have been used to encourage kids to attend school in Seattle. Some games post high scores to twitter inviting other players to challenge. Competition is another great way to encourage better behavior. Leaderboards can be used visually at home or in the classroom. Displays should show names and achievements earned in order to create social pressure to do the right thing. Ranking or even self monitoring systems can be very motivating.
Monitoring and Alerts
Monitoring systems can work as well. Automated systems are the easiest to keep up with, but if you can keep a record of the what your child spends money on. Sometimes keeping records of purchases shows what we value and sometimes it’s a wake up call. There are several apps that track your spending and send you alerts. They monitor your trends and tell you when you’re spending or saving more. If you use these apps, talk to your kids about them, “Wow, we’ve really spent too much money dining out” or, “We’re spending less on gas this month, that’s more money we can save for vacation.” Strict budgeting may not work for everyone and this is a way to work around that if you don’t have the time or discipline to write a strict budget. Keeping a money diary is another to make kids more aware of their habits.
A Well Placed Piggy Bank
In a high traffic area, put a small bank for each child. It could just be a tissue box on the wall. Points or money could accumulate interest, which is a perfect metaphor for investing. The key here is placement. Placement can change behavior. In cafeterias placing healthier items in closer proximity has been shown to increase healthy eating. If you make the saving an easy routine: hang backpack, hang coat, and save change.
Still Teaching a Lesson
Implementing these techniques it could add up to a lot of savings. Even though these techniques have a fun element, kids are still learning the concepts. In fact, it’s better when children are learning through play because it’s what they do best.