Sunday, July 21, 2013

What is your kid's currency?

I don't recall when I exactly heard the phrase "finding your child's currency," but it was when Brady was pretty young and I found it to be a very powerful idea.

I've heard of kids who stop misbehavior with just a cross look or a stern word. Or who are eager to please adults.

This is not my kid. No one discipline plan has ever consistently worked, which is why I use 26 different tools to guide behavior (boy was that a surprise when I actually wrote them all out!) He adapts quickly to whatever I throw at him and then tests in a different way. That's actually quite smart, I think!

Also, with Brady, it seems that if he comes to the conclusion that good behavior is in his best interest, it is more likely to stick. The more creative I am, the better he responds. 

The thing is, I cannot actually make him do something. But there I things I can control his access to that might influence or motivate him, and hopefully - ultimately - teach him.

But one thing that has been consistent is the idea of his "currency." Here is how Dr. Phil defines a child's currency in this article:

Define Your Child's Currency.
Find out what your child values — it could be a toy, a particular activity, or even a privilege like getting to stay awake to a particular hour. Dr Phil explains: "If you control the currency, you control the behavior that currency depends on." Once you understand what your child values, you can withdraw positive things (taking away the toy) or introduce negative things (making them take a time-out) as a form of discipline.

Here are some examples of Brady's currencies over the years:
  • For a time, it was actual currency! He had a period where he adored money, not in a "love of money" sort of way but because he could count it and play around with the numbers it represented and watch as it accumulated. He could not stand if he lost any bit of his allowance.
  • Television. 
  • Sometimes only certain shows, "treat" shows like Sponge-Bob. When he loses TV privileges, he gets educational TV back first and has to earn the others later. 
  • Computer time. 
  • Nintendo DS. 
  • A later bed time.
  • Sweet treats or treat foods like chips.
  • At times, a special toy, though he has never been one to get attached to many toys. 
  • Peanut butter. Weird, I know, but it is his FAVORITE food and he will do a lot to get it back. 
  • A particular activity - movie or pool trip. 
  • Even the frivolity of our day. We spend a lot of time just him and I. I tell him if he wants us to have a fun, relaxed time together, he needs to earn it. If he misbehaves or disobeys, then I will have to be more serious and structured.
  • Free play - if he continues a behavior, he will need to spend time in his room. If he refuses, then I begin removing other currencies. 
  • Access to The Prize Store. This is a last resort because we both love it so much, but if we're having a rough week, he will have to earn it back for the following week. I have also raised prices for awhile on the items, LOL.
As he gets older, I suppose there will be things like cell phone use and driving. But you know, that's how life is. If you don't work hard, you will not get a raise or get promoted, and you might even get fired. If you treat your boyfriend or girlfriend poorly, they're probably going to leave.

If you drive carelessly, you'll get a ticket and you might lose your driving privileges.

We all have our currencies, don't we? The things that motivate us to do better, to do well, or the things we really want to avoid. It makes such good sense to me to figure it out for a kid too. That way you acknowledge that they may be individuals who make their own choices, but they don't have control over everything. None of us do. And there are consequences for poor choices.

Wow, this learning stuff in life is pretty tough, isn't it?


  1. I have actually never heard of this before but that could be because I've never really watched Dr Phil either. I currently do most of what you say so I guess I'm on the right path, especially the having to earn privileges back. I wonder if he has tips for toddlers? Great post with lots of helpful tips.

    1. I must have heard it from someone else who watched Dr. Phil. It might have been in our Parents as Teachers group when he was little. I just can't remember. I really loved it when his currency was actually currency, LOL. And yes, toddlers bring their own special requirements, don't they?

  2. Very helpful! My kids have different currencies because of their ages, obviously, and it does help them to make choices.

    1. I guess that's the cool idea about it, their currencies change over time, but the method and basic idea are the same. The most challenging thing for me as a parent is trying to motivate another human being when they're away from me!

  3. Each of my 4 boys have different currencies although I've never thought of it in that frame before. Something to think about for sure. One would think with my oldest being 15 that I'd have this parenting thing down, but with 4 different personalities, I'm always learning (and tired but that's a whole other story).

    1. I so admire parents with several kids and are able to adapt to each one as an individual. That's an amazing feat! Makes life interesting I'm sure.

  4. I love how you so thoughtfully assessed where your child is most responsive, and found ways to motivate him using what he finds most valuable.

    It's important for kids to learn boundaries, respect for themselves and their parents, AND to learn how systems work. They also need to learn how to self-motivate when need be, and what you're sharing here is a great step towards all of that.


    1. Thanks, Nancy :) I totally agree that boundaries and respect are so very important. Respect in particular. I see a lack of it in our world in so many places and it makes me sad.


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