APP REVIEW: iPhone Apps and rewards

*edited to add links and extra photos…don’t seem to have that ability to do easily in the iphone app mentioned below.*

Getting an iPhone has really helped change some things in my life. But since I know not everyone can afford one (not really sure we can either, actually), I will try not to spend too much time on posts about apps.

But I just had to post about 2 apps that are really changing things in the Smith household, since there will be others reading this that might benefit from these too. The first one I am using to write this!

There is a WordPress app that allows me to, with some limitations, post to this website! That’s particularly handy right now as my son is on my computer and my daughter is typing on her typewriter (a freebie from a freecycler…If you don’t know about Freecycle, I highly recommend Googling it and find a group in your area! We’ve gotten a lot of fabulous stuff for free from people on there! Hm, there’s another post I must write at a later date) in her room and wants me close by to help with spelling. So here I am sitting on her bed writing this! Ok, significantly slower than if I were at my computer keyboard, but very cool that it’s possible. Especially since right now I am feeling so inspired to write and now I can, without my computer!

(Note: this post took 2 days to write so in the end I wrote this in a variety of places around my house.)

The other app that is making a difference in our lives, and even more so, is iRewardChart:

This app allows you to create star charts for your children and add tasks for them to complete to earn stars and rewards for them to cash stars in for. Really handy in that you can use this on the go, wherever you are!

Now, I would like to say that I have agreed in the past with the philosophy that rewards and punishments can be detrimental to children. I do really understand this and agree that intrinsic motivation is preferable, but in my life I just have not been able to get my children to be intrinsically motivated to get the things done that I think they need to be doing on a daily basis. I know this takes time but I’m finding that I can now see the merit in EXtrinsic motivation, and here’s why: I have been a believer, in my own life, in the idea to “act as if” and eventually it will follow. I first read this in a book by SARK called “A Creative Companion

Here’s what she quoted in her book that I’ve always remembered:

“Katherine Hepburn said in an interview ‘Oh, I’m scared all the time! I just act as if I’m not.'”

And:

“To live creatively free: Do what you know how to do NOW then ‘act as if’ you know how to do the rest.”

And finally:

“I met someone who had been paralyzed in an accident, and was told she would never walk again. She said, ‘I just acted as if I could do it, and then I learned how to embrace the micromovents.’ These micromovements led her to complete recovery.”

Very “Law of Attraction”, don’t you think?

Ok so now you’re wondering how this relates to a rewards chart for my children. 🙂

Well here’s how I’ve come to think about it. For now, anyway, this makes sense to me. If these people are suggesting that “acting as if” can actually cause your feelings and actions to change, it seems to me this might work even if you’re not necessarily the one motivating yourself to “act as if.”

I could be wrong but it seems to me that in so many things, “practice makes perfect.” So if a child is encouraged to practice something, whether it’s playing piano or riding a bike or cleaning their room or being kind to a sibling…even if the motivation comes extrinsically (from rewards or threats of punishment/consequences, or whatever)…barring any extreme situations (like abuse)…the child should still benefit from getting practice. And subsequently, gain experience in whatever you are requiring them to do.

I think this is a good thing. And also important here is that this helps to build a good HABIT–Something helpful in getting us to continue to do something even when we are unmotivated.

Whether intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, I think building good habits is a very good thing. And perhaps even one of my most important jobs as a parent–teaching good habits such as wearing a seat belt, brushing teeth, eating healthy foods, being respectful and kind, etc.

Now, like I said, I do realize the best motivation is intrinsic. But for the life of me I cannot get my kids to feel regular intrinsic motivation to help around the house or work on some of the educational activities that I know they need practice in (like practicing spelling or handwriting or math. And yes, I work very hard to offer educational lessons that are quite fun. I’m a firm believer that learning should always be fun and interesting to the learner,) and other such things. And I’m simply not comfortable waiting for them to come to it entirely on their own. I know people that completely trust their kids in learning what they need eventually and that’s great if you’re comfortable with waiting and trusting. It does indeed seem to work quite well for some people. But I’m not there. Maybe someday I will be but not today.

Today I’m frustrated with my kids simply not caring about all the messes they make and not being interested in practicing their lessons. I care. I care very much and it affects my own personal happiness and concerns me greatly for my children’s present and future.

For awhile other ideas worked but their effectiveness wore off and I’m back to looking for new ideas. Right now the star chart works for my children and I. Right now extrinsic motivation works for my kids. And my hope here is that eventually extrinsic motivation will evolve into intrinsic, after they’ve had time to mature and experience the benefits of the things I’m asking them to do.

Because of our star system, my kids are clammoring to do all the things I feel they should be doing, or doing things without a fight. I have all sorts of things on there, from household chores to responsibilities like brushing teeth and hair to behaviors like being kind and not hitting.

I do not, however, put things on the chart that my kids are already intrinsically motivated to do. For example, my daughter doesn’t fight us on brushing her teeth nightly, so this is not on her list. My son, however, fights us daily on this, so on his list “brush teeth without a fight” is something he can earn a star for. It’s his choice then as to whether or not to cooperate and earn a star. Either way, his teeth WILL be brushed, we make this very clear to him. But he chooses the easy way or the hard way. Not all things on the star chart are nonnegotiable, though. Many are up to them entirely as to whether or not to do them.

Either way, the kids have choices, which I think is very important.

An equally great thing about this app, in addition to being able to AWARD stars is that you can also DEDUCT stars, even making negative stars. So if one of them hits the other I can assign a negative star in “no hitting” (which is it’s purpose for being there).

Of course in conjunction with the stars, we have ongoing discussions about right and wrong and why it is important to do the things I am asking of them.

I am also deciding to make certain items on the list required each day (a base set of chores for example) and as such they will receive negative stars at the end of each day if they do not complete these tasks by bedtime. I haven’t completed instituting this new rule so I will post after we’ve tried this for awhile and let you know how it’s going. (update posted here)

For now, both my kids are only interested in cashing stars in for computer time. They get 1 hour for 5 stars. You can edit it to whatever you want. We are still continuing to tweak a lot as we are still figuring out what works. So far my kids haven’t yet tried saving stars up for some of the higher ticket items like 75 stars for a Webkinz. But that’s ok by me because computer time doesn’t cost me anything! 🙂

I would never suggest that this system would work for every child or every family. Or even for one family all the time. But for now it’s working for our family and helping this mommy tremendously. I hope some of you will find something here in my thoughts and experiences that might help you. Please leave a comment if you do!


This is me completing this post in bed this morning.

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