...These two experiences are examples of many similar experiences which started happening in our home over a couple of weeks. I can’t say I was exempt from being selfish either. In fact, I think that my husband and I were the ones who started the chain of selfish communications. For a few weeks we were really busy at our house. When the parents get really busy, they have a tendency to get really selfish with their time. When parents get selfish, it is only a matter of time before the children are also treating each other and the parents selfishly.
By the time our regular Sunday Family Meeting came around, I knew our problem had to be my topic for family discussion. During the meeting I brought up the topic. We all saw how not serving other family members when they ask for help was in conflict with sections of our family mission statement about love and relationships. We had recently adopted some selfish habits, and our habits were affecting our family relationships.
We all contributed ideas of what we could do to motivate our family to want to serve each other when asked and to be less selfish. We discussed earning extra chores for not helping others when asked, because the requests were like instructions. Ultimately though, we decided that our family needed a positive consequence, or motivation, to really make a change of heart and get a feeling of working together on the project. All of the sudden the “bean counter” game came into my mind.
I suggested we get a quart jar and enough beans to fill the jar. The system goes like this. Every time a person asks someone in the family to do something and the person asked says “OK” and does what was requested the person giving service gets to put a bean in the jar. The whole family serves each other and adds beans until the jar is full. When the jar is full our family gets to go ice skating. We were all a little bit shocked at how often we ask each other to do things for us. We even started asking someone else to put a bean in the jar for us. This meant that the person putting the bean in the jar got to put two beans in because they were helping someone else get a bean in the jar.
The jar is filling up quickly. All the members of the Peck family, parents included, have started stopping what they are doing to help each other all the time now. I expect we will be going ice skating really soon. We won’t use the jar any more for a while after our ice skating trip, because I have found games like this can’t usually go on for too long or they loose their motivational value, and the family forgets about them. But, our family has already had a great reminder about how selfishness can ruin the feeling of unity in the home. Thanks to the beans, we are much more conscious about the way we respond when someone asks for help. We have successfully played “bean counter” before to motivate secret service, and to motivate the four basic skills and school achievements, but this time we used it a little bit differently; and this time was just as motivating.
Don’t forget to use positive consequences as motivations too. Sometimes the positive focus is better than the negative.
*Wife, Mother, Foster Parent
*Author: Parenting A House United,
*Public Speaker and Star of BBC program The World's Strictest Parents
Photo by: Juanmonino