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I'm looking for a word that I can use to describe the following:

A point system where I give points to my kids to incentivise them to do some tasks they don't really want to do.

I don't want to simply call them 'points' or 'credits'. I'm currently between karma or kudos.

Is one more appropriate than the other? Are there other words that would work better?

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The word generally in use is money. –  John Lawler Aug 30 '13 at 20:43
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I'm trying to abstract the money portion away so there is no direct one-to-one correlation otherwise it would not be as fun for the kids. Similar to StackExchange, where we answer questions for the fun and points and not because we are getting paid (monetarily). –  Queti M. Porta Aug 30 '13 at 20:51
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But it is a secondary currency, so it has to be fungible, and it has to be differentiable into units. Make your own currency. Karmabux - 5 Gandhis makes a Mother Teresa. Or vice versa. Or, if they're fans of some story or game, make up currency in their likeness. But make it fun to make and make it valuable to spend, or you'll go the way of S&H Green Stamps; or airlines "miles". –  John Lawler Aug 30 '13 at 20:59
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Don’t write *incentivise! Write motivate or even better just plain give them (a) reason to. See how very much better that sounds? –  tchrist Aug 30 '13 at 21:18
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Kristina used the word: reward. To me that sounds right. –  dcaswell Aug 30 '13 at 22:30

17 Answers 17

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+50

A Gold Star was a common reward when I was a child (long ago), and I imagine it still is. If I remember, we were awarded silver stars and maybe other colors for lesser accomplishments and gold stars signified multiple lesser accomplishments. (5 silver stars converted into 1 gold star).

If the children are all boys, something like a military rank might work. I don't know if there is something equivalent for girls or for mixed groups.

I think we received more tangible rewards at some point after reaching some goal. Being appointed a new role or responsibility or being called a leader (which actually had a job description) were some of the rewards.

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+1 LOL. You must be as old a fart as I am! I can remember those 'star' days in the classroom, as well as, those rank days earning higher ranks of achievement in the Cub Scouts (I know... you won't tell anyone will you!?). Both methods result in greater self-esteem as the true reward for accomplishments made. –  Epiphany Sep 2 '13 at 9:24
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Okay, a military rank is a dubious enough suggestion as it is, but how sexist IS it to suggest that the group would have to be all boys for THAT to be an appropriate reward? On the other hand, should we ever promote ANYTHING militaristic for ANYONE? Oh, what a tangled web... –  John M. Landsberg Sep 4 '13 at 5:37
    
Well, I think that my children turned out alright despite the fact that we didn't obsess over being PC. In the real world, we still have fire captains, fire commanders, team captains, captains of industry, drum majors (and majorettes, if you are inclined to differentiate), sergeants at arms, surgeons general, attorneys general, the whole merchant marine is operated by rank-titled individuals from commodore to captain (or master) to seaman. Remember, RHIP, and there is no reason children can't be taught to look at it that way under some circumstances, particularly where incentives are offered. –  Canis Lupus Sep 4 '13 at 7:12
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But women can hold all of those ranks you mentioned! Your answer makes it sound like girls can't have ranks, which is both factually inaccurate and sends a problematic message in a world where we want boys and girls to have the same kinds of ambitions. –  dbmag9 Sep 4 '13 at 13:49
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@JohnM.Landsberg Random House and Collins would disagree on that last point: dictionary.reference.com/browse/alright –  C.B. Sep 6 '13 at 1:41

I am using the Agile methodology at work. (Enjoying it, as well, although you should ask other software developers whether they also enjoy it!)

Believing that I should practice what I preach, I am also using the Agile methodology in my personal life. I have adopted a chapter from Mindhacker and combined it with LeanKit.

Different chores have different point values. Carrying your laundry to your room and putting it away earns 1 point. Feeding the dog earns 1 point. Emptying the trash and recycle bin earns 2 points. Unloading the dishwasher earns 3 points. Washing the dishes + loading the dishwasher + wiping the counters earns 4 points.

Agile calls these story points. Agile recommends using a Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13...) for different story points. The idea is to do a relative sizing, not to document time. For us, feeding the chickens or taking the trash bins curbside is a little more odious, so those chores garner more points.

LeanKit calls these (a rather bland) size.

Using LeanKit on a web interface or an iOS app, a chore gets moved from the "to do" to "in progress" as the child (or me or my wife) begins the chore. When it is completed, they move it to the "done" column.

The family took to this rather well when I mixed in a Mindhacker incentive: I paid out cash relative to the proportion of story points earned.

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It sounds like you are creating a kind of virtual currency. Kids today see this all the time, in games. So I suggest you try a game metaphor / verbiage they will be familiar with:

Mana

If this works, you may try to further gamify the motivation by creating Levels, or Titles that come with certain amounts of points / mana. These are like badges on FourSquare, etc.

Then assign privileges with these levels: e.g.

  • may delegate (1) chore / month to a sibling;
  • stay out later;
  • official decider of desert-location
  • extra cash for books;

They may find it extra-fun if they have to spend these points / mana in order to gain a Level. Then levels are non-linear, any child can get levels as they choose, and siblings can specialize differently from each other.


In the business world, to which you may want to humorously treat them, such an incentive is called a

"Cert"

This is a slang, foreshortening the word "Certified Bonus." It is 'certified' because it is guaranteed, given a certain kind of pre-defined behavior. This guarantee very-much motivated behavior.

If the incentives were edible, you may consider:

Treats, Goodies

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I like it. You could even make the rewards a list of castable spells for the kids to roll their eyes at. 10 mana - nocturnal shield - This spell makes the caster immune to the bedtime effect for 2 hours –  mootinator Sep 8 '13 at 2:45

When I was a kid we had a Merit Board at my grandmas. 7 cousins stayed over the summer for weeks at a time. The kid with the most merits got to pick what was on TV that night. The weekly winner got to pick Sunday dinner.

Which is fun because you have merits and demerits for the bad things. So if we take out the trash that is a merit. Clean out the garage, maybe 5 *merits*... Punch cousin in the gut, two demerits.

Only if there was a Demerit Board and I would have watched CHIPS every night...

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+1 for punching cousin in the gut (likely well deserved). I'm pretty sure I would NEVER have won the honor of picking the Sunday dinner. lol! –  Kristina Lopez Sep 4 '13 at 17:23
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@KristinaLopez - What is funny is that there are 7 of us. So by a certain time of the day you know you can't win. So around 4-5 in the afternoon it is bedlam. And the 2-3 at the top are trying to behave. If anything I think this system brought out the worst in us. If I spent as much time doing chores as trying to get the others in trouble I would have won every week. –  RyeɃreḁd Sep 4 '13 at 19:13
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Your poor grandparents! I'm sitting at my desk laughing out loud right now! –  Kristina Lopez Sep 4 '13 at 22:39

First, a written contract with rules and how "points" are rewarded; signed by all. It should be displayed on a wall for easy reference.

Then you decide on what form the points should be. Why not do a little copying from EL&U and other social networks?

  • Thumbs-ups or "likes"
  • Badges or medals (make your own)
  • Promotion (e.g.; trusted helper or respected contributor)

5 thumbs-ups = 1 bronze badge/medal
5 bronze badges/medals = 1 silver badge/medal
5 silver badges/medals = 1 gold badge/medal
5 gold badges/medals = "Promotion"

Once they achieve promotion they get to ask you to do something which you have previously agreed upon and signed in the contract. Let them choose, it doesn't matter how silly, daft, or funny. If they can't come up with anything, suggest a day trip for the whole family to enjoy.

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That's exactly what I'm gonna say. I would add to the list reputation. –  Terry Li Sep 7 '13 at 10:44

The word that I would use is bonuses. That is a reward for doing something "extra."

Another word, sometimes used in a more sophisticated world, is "premiums."

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I wouldn't use karma (too esoteric) or kudos (nobody is admiring them).

To make it work, you need a private,'in' word that belongs only to your family so that the kids feel ownership of it, and ideally contains a joke only your family understands. Something along the lines of "Portapoints", but funnier.

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I would go for Kudos, since it sounds cool and contemporary:

Kudos (from the Ancient Greek: κῦδος) is acclaim or praise for exceptional achievement.

In contrast to Karma which has different meanings in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism which is obviously religously motivated.

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Something visible might help, eg a chart (as mentioned) or dropping a currency of your choice into a jar. This could be beads or any other small item. You'd then simply call it by the item's name. Children like to see how much they've 'earned'. You don't mention the children's age, but it could be a good way to teach young children about money without giving them actual spending power.

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In Chinese primary schools a decade ago, a "little red flower" was used to reward nice behavior or outstanding achievements.The tool looked pretty much like a traditional Chinese seal, but the pattern was cuter and kids oriented.

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Karma is not always a reward for a good action, because there are good and bad karma. When a person did something wrong in the past (for instance: they hurt someone or did not do kindness to others), they will get bad karma. So the choice is yours :)

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I think "likes", +1s or 1-ups are the currently trendy things to use.

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Karma can have both positive and negative connotations but Kudos can normally be negative if it is lacking, as in "His actions gained him no Kudos" it also sounds 'cool' in the modern parlance so should appeal to the children. Do try and avoid "Kudo" as Kudos is both singular and plural.

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If you want to be humourous you can say carrots (as in carrots and sticks). The opposite of money, you might say!

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Personally I would recommend calling the points Good Deeds.

Part of my reason for suggesting it is for psychological reasons. Firstly - good is obviously naming them as something good, thus the children will unconsciously categorise them as being 'good'. Secondly, the word deed has a double-e sound, so it's difficult to not smile when saying it (hence why 'cheese' is used to make people smile for the camera). Smiling as a side effect creates a reaction in the body that releases chemicals that make people feel good, thus creating a double-edged sword.

Another reason is that if you later choose to punish them for misbehaving, you can implement negative points called Bad Deeds.

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I've always thought brownies or brownie points was used for this kind of 'credit'

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How about a "Rung"?

Draw a ladder on a piece of paper (stuck to the fridge, of course!) At the top of the ladder is their reward, but they have to climb rungs to get the reward.

"You've earned one rung" has a nice feel to it.

I suppose there could also be slips down the ladder too, losing rungs on bad behaviour.

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