Our Treasure Chest Reward System For Kids

April 18, 2014

Personal Finance

I remember the day my daughter was born like it was yesterday.

The night before my wife started getting contractions and just like a first time parent I had my notepad jotting down the time of contractions looking for the time between contractions to shorten. My wife eventually fell asleep around midnight but I stayed up a couple hours after to make sure everything with her was fine. I eventually passed out and was awoken around 4am by my wife who had this look on her face and no words needed to be spoken. I grabbed a monster out of the fridge, our nifty “to go” bag (which we didn’t even use), then booked it to the hospital. After a couple hours in delivery my daughter arrived around 9am. The first time I held her in my arms was literally the happiest moment of my life. That day my wife saw me cry for the first time ever and we’ve known each other since we were in freshman algebra in high school.

We’ve since welcomed my son into this world and I was equally happy then as I was the day my daughter was born. I have a lot of aspirations in this life but God and family have always and will always come before everything else.

Instilling Core Values In Our Children

Over the past month or so I’ve been doing a lot of research and having in depth conversations with my wife on how we plan to raise our kids. Obviously we are not going to allow them to become heathens but we want to instill core principles into each of our children that we believe are necessary if they are going to survive and thrive in this world. We have talked about responsibility, accountability, and strong decision making skills but just last week it dawned on us that we wanted to teach financial literacy as soon as possible.

We’re not rich by any means but we believe we provide a very stable and generous upbringing for our children. If you want to get technical we would be considered upper middle class. I am working extremely hard to build wealth that I can pass down through our family for generations but the last thing I want to do is create “spoiled brats” or “trust fund babies”. I know that may sound harsh but I’ve come across a handful in my lifetime and they are certainly not the kind of people I want my children to become.

While discussing this with my wife we realized a huge problem in our parenting tactics! To sum it up real quick we have been raising our kids completely wrong. It definitely wasn’t our intention but as parents you want the absolute best for your children. You want them to have all the things you never had and to experience all the things you never experienced as a child. But is that really the best thing for them?

It was easy for us to spot with our daughter because she’s still a child. We started to notice more and more that if she didn’t get something she wanted she threw a tantrum. She literally falls on the floor like a stack of legos and stomps her feet while screaming at the top of her lungs. I’m not sure how you were raised but I come from a military family, I’ll just say our household was ruled by an iron fist. There was no talking, negotiating, or inquisitions about why we were acting the way we were. You either did what you were told or “else.” I know some people still subscribe to that type of discipline tactic but that’s not what we are implementing in our household.

Of course getting her back on track has been tough but could you imagine if we had waited until she was a teenager? For over a decade we would have been giving her everything she wanted or desired because it felt good to give her the things neither of us had. She would be a spoiled, inconsiderate, and ungrateful human being which is the last thing my wife and I want to happen.

Our Reward System For Kids

So in order to steer things in the right direction we have made drastic changes to our household over the last couple months. We have instituted timeouts, taken away toys and canceled play dates. I will be completely honest with you, I think sometimes it hurt me more than it hurt her. I hate hearing my little princess cry, I just do. But the results have been absolutely stellar, we haven’t had any more tantrums, she uses her manners (“please”, “can I”, “thank you”) appropriately and she cleans up her messes when asked to do so.

We have been so ecstatic about these results that we have been looking at ways to continue and foster this new behavior while introducing financial literacy and I think we’ve figured it out.

Treasure Box & Sticker Chart

My daughter loves the show Jake and the Never Land Pirates so she has a fascination with treasure boxes. She is always pretending things around the house are treasure boxes so I decided to build her own treasure box.

Building a treasure box

We have essentially created a reward system to introduce financial literacy and foster the behavior we expect from our daughter.

Here is how it works:

1. My daughter absolutely loves candy, and yes every kids loves candy but you she would eat it all day long if you let her. We are firm believers that people always acts in their own self interest so we are using candy as our main motivator. We have bought her favorite candies in miniature size bags.

2. My wife printed out some nifty sticker charts from Pinterest and we purchased some stickers that she picked out.

3. For every 5 stickers she receives she’ll be able to open the treasure chest and pick a candy of her choice. We hope this will build her decision making skills because she will only be allowed one bag of candy.

4. So how will she earn a sticker? By doing the following things without being asked…

  • Sleeping in her “big girl” bed all night long
  • Waking up and going straight to the potty then brushing her teeth
  • Cleaning up her playroom all by herself
  • Coming home, taking her shoes & socks off then putting them in her cubby
  • And a couple other things we believe are big tasks for her at the moment

We hope by doing this that we teach her how hard work and discipline pay off. This will be a forever evolving system as she becomes older, we plan on introducing financial principles soon by allowing her to save her stickers for toys at Target. We believe by introducing these principles early it will be much easier for her to understand core financial principles.

Pink Treasure Chest

Candy filled treasure chest

Completed Treasure Chest

As you can probably tell I’m far from a seasoned carpenter, in fact I think I spent more time on Youtube and the internet than I did actually making this. But it was truly an amazing project that I did with my daughter and I believe it is something she will remember for a very long time. Oh yeah, in case you were wondering the colors are “bubble gum pink” and “viola purple.” I will never forget because I spent 30 minutes waiting in line at Home Depot to have them made!! 

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16 Responses to “Our Treasure Chest Reward System For Kids”

  1. Roadmap2Retire Says:

    Interesting post, BBB.
    We dont have kids yet, but this is something I think about a lot – raising financially literate kids. Kudos to you and your wife for taking an initiative and teaching them to be responsible.

    cheers
    R2R

    Reply

    • Marvin Says:

      Thank you! I have to admit sometimes I stay up late at night wondering if we’re doing the right thing. Unfortunately there is no guide to parenting ;-)

      Reply

    • Jon @ Money Smart Guides Says:

      I agree…my wife and I don’t have kids yet but I am already thinking about how to raise them so that they aren’t spoiled brats and are responsible. I’m sure there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach and you have to figure out what works for you as a parent.

      Reply

  2. JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit Says:

    That’s a great idea to get her started toward the decision making progress and when y’all do start allowing her to “save” her stickers for toys that will help with teaching her the concept of delayed gratification.

    Reply

    • Marvin Says:

      You’re spot on JC, I couldn’t think of the phrase when I was writing the article but teaching delayed gratification is key. I read an article a while back (not sure how accurate it’s findings were) that stated when children were given the “Marsh mellow” test and the kids who chose to wait were more successful than those didn’t.

      Reply

  3. Income Surfer Says:

    It sounds like you take your parenting role seriously. Your children are very lucky. I can relate to all the thought you’ve put into how you want to raise them. Our son is just a newborn, but mama and I stay very busy discussing such things. Have a great Easter weekend!
    -Bryan

    Reply

    • Marvin Says:

      Thank you! That means a lot, the good thing we’ve found after years of research is being a concerned and engaged parents is about 50% of the equation. You’d be amazed at how many children do not have engaged or caring parents. To my surprise it occurs equally as much in suburban areas as it does urban areas.

      Reply

  4. Sher@FatGuySkinnyWallet Says:

    I just can’t tell you how much I love this! I love the idea, but I also love your willingness as a parent to be creative and discover what works for your family. We don’t have children, but so many friends of ours do things solely based on a certain parenting book or system they’ve adopted. I do think resources are helpful, but I see how each child is unique and it takes wisdom to guide your child’s character.

    Reply

    • Marvin Says:

      Thanks Sher! That means a lot, sometimes we question if we are doing things the right way. But at the end of the day you are exactly right, understanding your child and being creative is 90% of the equation. I sat next to a lady on an airplane once and her child had autism. He was having such a horrific time in school that she decided to home school. Well the first couple months were horrendous! So much so that she literally broke down crying in front of him, during the break down she sobbed the question “What do you want to do?” In which he responded, “I want to be a chef!” Long story short she picked herself up and revamped the ENTIRE curriculumn to revolve around cooking. They would search for recipes online, utilize math while preparing the food, go grocery shopping (math again), and a whole bunch of other things as well. Her story resonated with me so much and I will never forget it. It’s all about knowing your kids.

      Reply

  5. Martin Says:

    Marvin, that’s a nice story and it remains me my own when my son was born. I had the exact same feelings when I held him in my arms for the first time. Unforgettable moment.

    Reply

  6. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer Says:

    I think the box is adorable, Marvin!!!! Love what you guys are doing with the kids, and I really believe that the lack of such commitment to training your kids up well is what is causing so many of the problems in today’s world with younger people. Like you, when I grew up, there was no negotiation. What dad said, went, and if we dared disobey, we earned our due in spankings. I think our generations are better at being more focused on love, but I still think we need to make sure we keep that discipline area in focus, and as you guys are doing, reward them when we see good behavior. Like you said, better now than when they are 16 and really out of control.

    Reply

    • Marvin Says:

      Thank you so much Laurie, I know you understand completely where we’re coming from. This world is jacked up in more ways than I could possibly describe in a blog post but every tragic case we see that involves a child is usually due to neglect at home. I love your new book and have told everyone I can all about it!

      Reply

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  1. One Last Goodbye and Sher's Blog Medley #4 - Fat Guy Skinny Wallet — Fat Guy Skinny Wallet - April 21, 2014

    […] LOVE how Marvin from Brick by Brick Investing has used a treasure chest as a reward system for his daughter. Being a parent takes ingenuity, patience, and constancy – and this idea […]

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