Let me preface this post by saying my upbringing was wonderful. I had all of the things a child in the ‘burbs could dream of: sparky flare jeans, a Nintendo 64 and a netball goal ring in the backyard.
My childhood, thanks to my parents, was nothing short of idyllic. Ask any of my three siblings – midwife Claire, 26, doctor-in-the-making Evelyn, 21, and teaching student Tom, 18 – and they’ll tell you the same. We were loved, and we were lucky. Bloody lucky.
We were also good kids. But was our upbringing conventional? Uh. No.
Over the years, our parents (mostly Dad) experimented with all kinds of quirky methods to keep us in line, but none was more impressive than the ‘points system’, which was devised and rolled out when I was on the cusp of adolescence.
Yep – you read that right – my family operated on a points system.
The aim was to teach us about discipline, consequences and reward. As a moody tween I hated it. But now? I think it’s a little bit genius.
Here’s how it worked:
Everything existed on a scale between +20 and -20 points. Starting on zero, each child would be awarded points for good behaviour (saying please and thank you might be worth one point, offering to take the bins out might be worth three), or could have points deducted for bad behaviour (being nasty to each other, not making our beds, complaining about having meatloaf for dinner, etc etc etc).
LISTEN: One dad’s clever way to keep kids off screens. (Post continues…)
With a magnet, we secured a running points tally to the fridge, eagerly observing Evelyn dipping towards -20 again (she was the defiantly messy ‘I don’t brush my hair’ child) or jealously notice Claire rising towards +20 for the umpteenth time (she was the ‘I’m in the advanced music class for playing the recorder’ child).
Because here’s the real kicker: If you reached -20, you were “banned from screens” for an entire week. That’s phones, iPods, TVs, computers, everything. You know, modern day torture. But if you reached +20? You were handed a crisp $20 note, the 12-year-old equivalent of being gifted an exotic private island.
While Evelyn would chuck a royal hissy fit whenever she’d reach -20 (there were many, many times) and yell something like “WELL MY CALCULATOR HAS A SCREEN, GUESS I CAN’T DO MY MATHS HOMEWORK”, the points system gave her something brilliant: time.