Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Matrix


The boys decided to take the "blue pill".

So Big Brother and Little Brother (and Bab-E Brother, by indirect extension) have been (blissfully unaware that they are) in "The Matrix" for the past few weeks.

You see, things kinda came to a head this summer, between 3 boys at home (all day) with different schedules and the same Type A temperament and the heat (amongst others), things were not going well behavior-wise.  Although there were trends of things going south towards the end of the school year.

And sadly, for both Mom-E and I, but especially Mom-E - by virtue of being home with the boys - parenting was becoming less fun and more of a chore.

And that "just ain't right."

But when even the most mundane of requests had the potential to be a WWF (I know it's WWE, but when I was watching it growing up it was WWF) Royal Rumble, it kinda makes it hard to enjoy yourself.

So Mom-E and I instituted a new behavior chart plan, called "Busy-Dad-E Bucks."

Because the truth is that children do better with structure and accountability.

(Don't get me wrong, we weren't letting them pillage the house like Vikings, but we needed a more formal system.)

And particularly with Big Brother, who is pretty logical and has an emphasis on fairness, this structure has allowed him to feel "in control", when in fact it's Mom-E and Dad-E who are in control.

Hence, the Matrix analogy.

Ah, the challenge of parenthood - to be warm and friendly while still maintaining control.

So, Busy-Dad-E Bucks works like this:
1.  Behaviors we want to reinforce earn you Busy-Dad-E Bucks.  Most things, like making your bed, putting clothes in the hamper, getting dressed without having to be nagged, earn $1.  "Bigger things", like trying a new food, earn $2.

2.  Behaviors we want to go away cost you Busy-Dad-E Bucks.  Again, most things, like yelling or hitting your brother, cost you $1.

3.  The boys can watch a morning cartoon for "free", but after that, any additional TV or other "screen time" (i.e., computer or iDevice) must be "purchased" with Busy-Dad-E Bucks.  So, an extra TV show or a block of computer time costs $5.  Any outdoor activities - swimming, riding bikes, etc. - are, of course, free.

4.  We also keep track of "good behavior days", in which the boys lose $2 or less of Busy-Dad-E Bucks.  Good behavior days can be redeemed for bigger rewards.  For example, 2 good behavior days, can be redeemed for your choice of things like going bowling, playing Putt-Putt, or a kid's meal lunch treat.

5.  The boys have a say in adding things that can either earn or cost you Busy-Dad-E Bucks.  As Little Brother pointed out, "You forgot to list 'poo-poo' as words that we shouldn't say (outside of the actual need to go potty)."

6.  All Busy-Dad-E Bucks are kept track of on a behavior chart, rather than using something like play money, which could much more easily get lost or stolen.

And the boys, particularly, Big Brother, bought into the plan, "hook, line, and sinker."

As soon as I explained the "program" to him, Big Brother said, "Dad-E, can I go make my bed?"

"Heck yeah, buddy!"

And so, a couple weeks into the program, it's not uncommon for Big Brother to reflexively get dressed, put his clothes in the hamper, and make his bed in the first 10 minutes after waking up.

But it ain't all roses all the time either, I can remember one tantrum where a certain child lost about $18 in a span of 10 minutes, thanks to repeated use of the words "stupid" and "dumb".

But what we've found is that when the boys get upset, the tantrums are less intense and shorter, because they don't want to lose more "Busy-Dad-E Bucks."

So, anyway, while this is still a work in progress, and doesn't change the fact that it's still chaotic with multiple small children, the air at home is much more peaceful.

And parenting is more fun again.

And, yes, you can have a Busy-Dad-E Buck for reading this post, IF you share the blog with 3 of your friends.

See you on Fatherhood Friday,


  1. "We're all here to do what we're all here to do." Sounds like great structure...and I'm with you: It will always be the WW F.