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Help for Parents: Motivating Children

Updated on August 17, 2012
Cool points will motivate kids to be cooperative and get along.
Cool points will motivate kids to be cooperative and get along. | Source

By Kathy Batesel

A Fun Way to Maintain Discipline at Home

Parents often seek help for how to discipline their children. I know I did!

We had a blended family with four pre-teen girls at home. My husband's ex-wife did not get along with him and his daughter suffered because of it. An intense custody battle and parental alienation syndrome were ever-present tensions. My own ex and I got along reasonably well, but had extremely different parenting styles. You can bet I scoured the Internet, read books and magazine articles, and asked other parents for insights on how to cope with the day-to-day challenges that come with pre-teen children.

Much of what I found didn't seem helpful in addressing the things we needed to - mostly jealousies and petty arguments. "Just get through it." "Praise your child." "Make the punishment fit the crime."

"Well, duh!" I thought. I might have rolled my eyes at times, in a worthy impersonation of my youngest daughter's favorite facial expression. What I needed was something that actually addressed the core issues without taking a ton of time. Something that I could do even with my busy full-time-student, part-time employee, and 24/7 mom roles. Something that would produce results.

Then it hit me like a vision.

"Cool" was Everything to the Fonz

Are you a fan of the Fonz?

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Arthur Fonzarelli and Kids

Anyone old enough to remember will never forget the Fonz, that lovable bad-boy on the television sitcom Happy Days. Fonzie was the kind of character everyone wanted to be - confident, popular, and above all, cool.

The show itself was set in the 1950s, and it dealt with with the kinds of issues teens face and choices they make on issues like whether to stay in school, smoke cigarettes, or handle relationships with other people.

As one of its primary characters, Arthur Fonzarelli represented the coolest of cool. He was the guy who rode a motorcycle and wore leather jackets, but made smart choices, unlike the "regular" characters who made mistakes. The Fonz would guide them to be cool, and highlight when their choices were decidedly uncool.

I have no idea why it popped into my head, but one afternoon, I flashed on an episode I hadn't seen in years. In it, the Fonz told another character, "You just lost major cool points."

"Aha!" I thought. "What we need is a cool points system."

Have you used a calendar or points system with your children?

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The Cool Points Concept

Two pieces of paper, a pen, and some creativity resulted in the Cool Points system that my children came to know and love.

I thought of rewards I knew they'd love, ranging from small to big, inexpensive to costly, all the way up to the most impossible of their dreams. The list looked something like this:

Cool Points Rewards

A $1 item from the store
Mom will do one of your chores
Ice cream cone at Baskin-Robins
Movie rental of your choice
Jewelry item for $5
A day off from all chores
Mom spends 2 hours doing what you want
10 pack of gel pens
$5 + a day off from chores
Compact disk up to $15
Movies & snacks at theater w/ a friend
Pizza party w/ up to 10 friends
$100 shopping spree
Trip to amusement park w/ 1 friend
A digital camera
$200 + mom's your slave for a day
Quartet Dry Erase Combination Board, Magnetic, 11" x 17", White Frame (MHOC1117)
Quartet Dry Erase Combination Board, Magnetic, 11" x 17", White Frame (MHOC1117)

You can post your reward list right next to your child's current point level.


Why the Cool Points Systems Works Great with Kids

When I introduced the cool points system, I awarded each girl 100 points just for being a cool kid. That meant each of them got their first reward, a dollar bill, as I explained how the system would work.

I would give them cool points when I caught them doing something well, or being helpful, or for anything that I thought was especially "cool." I wouldn't always notice, and sometimes I might notice but not give points. For example, I thought that if I asked them to do something and they did it without arguing, it might deserve some extra recognition, but most of the time I'd just expect them to do it because minding mom was something that needed to happen whether they got points or not.

Also, I told them, they could lose points if they did something that wasn't cool. If they lost points and got dropped below the points needed for something they'd already earned, they couldn't get that reward a second time.

They agreed, and the system went to work immediately with terrific results.My daughters learned some valuable lessons from our cool points system:

  • They learned to stay motivated even when gratification was delayed. In its early stages, points can be earned faster than at higher levels, but those higher levels offered benefits that they weren't likely to get just through normal daily life. Sure, I might buy them something at the Dollar Store even if they hadn't earned it, but I'd never agree to hand over a hundred bucks or be a slave for a day for no reason!
  • They learned that what they thought was important might be, but sometimes their actions were noticed even when they weren't aware of being watched. Each time I awarded points, their smiles showed their pleasure and surprise, just as losing points proved to be an incentive for them to learn from mistakes. For the three or four years we used this system, I didn't have to use other punishments. Talking and reducing their point totals did the trick.
  • They learned that not all mistakes and recognition are equal. I might deduct ten points for a bad attitude, and a hundred for a lie. I might reward ten for doing chores without a reminder, and twenty-five for offering to help with someone else's chore.

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12

This is the way I approached discipline when my daughters were very young, and I can tell you that it works great - especially for children who act like they don't hear you or ignore what you say.


Why Cool Points Are Easy for Parents

Parents who are firm, fair, and consistent raise good kids. It doesn't matter what parenting style a parent uses as long as it meets these three criteria. I knew I was firm and fair, but I lacked consistency. Hectic schedules, forgetfulness, and tender moments could interrupt a week of being grounded. When this happened, the kids were more likely to learn how to manipulate me than to behave well!

The cool points system gave me flexibility that I hadn't seen with other reward or calendar systems It allowed me to respond when I thought something warranted it, and the discipline's effects remained in place whether I remembered or not. They had to earn back the lost points no matter how busy I was. Because it was always written down, it provided the consistency that otherwise could be lost.

Plus it let me focus on the areas that needed it. My youngest daughter tended to roll her eyes and argue a lot, so I awarded her points when she cooperated. The oldest one, my stepdaughter, was compliant and sometimes got bullied, so she got recognition when she stood up for herself. The cool points system is flexible enough to teach what each child needs without forcing them to conform to rules that ignore their personalities.

As the girls neared a reward level, I could slow down or speed up the points being awarded so that I could keep my word, increase motivation, or call attention to a particular behavior that was good or bad. If I didn't have a $10 bill, I would have a chance to get one before my daughter hit the point threshold to get it. That way, I didn't let them down. Their upcoming reward kept them motivated. They knew their own extra efforts would get them to that next level, but they had to stay "cool" on all their behaviors because they didn't know what would get recognized.


When I started the Cool Points system, my daughters ranged in age from about 10 to 14. By the time they reached driving age, the system didn't work as well. It could have been revamped to include things that are important to a teen, like concert tickets or certain hair styles, but with four teens in one household, I decided to let the cool points system go once the oldest two started driving. Even though we'd revised the list occasionally, I felt that my teens had different interests and needs than my pre-teens. The younger kids kept at it for a while after we officially abandoned it, but it marked them as "younger" and they, too, lost interest.

I wish I had thought of this system sooner, because it's so easy to understand that I thought it could have worked at a much younger age. I think at seven or eight years old, a child will be able to understand and love cool points. If you're looking for a positive way to teach responsible behavior, I encourage you to create your own cool points list and put it to work.


Submit a Comment

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    Thank you, Teaches!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

    Reinforcing positive behavior is always a great win with parents and kids. Good advice and suggestions for making life easier for a family.

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    Thanks, Mellonyy!

  • Mellonyy profile image

    Mellonyy 5 years ago

    Great hub! I liked ..."Parents who are firm, fair, and consistent raise good kids"...... and completely agree with you. Voted and shared!

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    Very welcome, TRE. Thank you for checking it out!

  • theraggededge profile image

    Bev G 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    This might just be the answer I need to get my kids to start respecting each other. I'm going to think about this and work out how to implement it. Thanks so much!

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    Thank you, KBWard! I hope you'll find it as useful as we did.

  • profile image

    kbward 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Bravo!!! Excellent article and my hat is off to you! I have four kids of my own (boy, girl, boy, girl) and they are good kids. However, they can try my patience not by misbehaving but by the way they sometimes treat each other. I have tried to tell them that when they get older they will learn to appreciate each other and they will be best friends. It's obvious that they really love each other, but I would like them to be more respectful to each other. I would be willing to bet that your "cool points" system just might be the answer. Brilliant!!!

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    You will absolutely love it, Brittanie! I promise! I hope you'll stop back in a couple of weeks and let people know how it's going. Thank you for reading and commenting, too.

  • Brittanie2216 profile image

    Brittanie Pervier 5 years ago from Seattle WA

    This is a great idea. I baby sit and tutor four girls every day for most of the day and they range from seven to ten. Things can get kind of crazy at times. We started a star chart but it got really complicated really fast. This sounds much easier and fun too. Thanks for the idea I am definitely going to try this.