Do you remember having to wait patiently for someone to return your call, instead of texting them your question?  I remember the excitement of call waiting, when it became an option to answer an incoming call when you were already on the phone. At my house now we don’t even have a landline any more. My children will probably rarely encounter a busy signal; they can practically call anyone from almost anywhere. Do you remember having to make an appointment and then wait for the date to talk to the doctor? I recently emailed the doctor my question, and then wondered why it took so long for him to answer.

With cell phones, email and internet at your hip, how do we teach our children we can’t get everything by pushing a button? How do we raise patient children when things are so available and instant to our children? My wife and I have struggled with these questions.

At my house we have started a reward system using quarters. Have you ever tried buying anything for a quarter these days? Even arcade games and those toy machines at the grocery store charge at least 50 cents.  Toys and games start at a dollar and go up, so why did we pick quarters?

We wanted to give our children choices and incentives. They can earn quarters for helping out on extra house chores or if they behave well in public when we have to run errands. When we are out and about we are careful to explain what we are doing and to set reasonable expectations for their behavior. With their earnings their choice is simple: spend their quarters now or save them for later.

After the first couple of trips they spent their quarters on those little rides in the mall. Then we created what we call the “mom store,” which is a basket at home filled with some candies, small Lego® men and other small toys they can buy from us with their quarters. All of the items are priced in quarters. They started setting goals and saving their quarters. Sometimes the rides at the mall are still too tempting, but with a little reminder of how close they are to their goals their patience has begun to shine through.

Does this always work? …well, no. Sometimes just maintaining this system is a lot of work. The one person we did not factor into this lesson was Grandma. The children have started asking Grandma for quarter chores. They quickly realized that Grandma tends to pay more quarters for comparable tasks and then takes them to ice cream too. When they return from Grandma’s they go right to the “mom store.” I would not change the Grandma factor though. They are learning that different people expect different things.

As a result of implementing this reward system, we have better-behaved children and much less whining for things when we are shopping. We simply ask “how many quarters do you have?” or remind them it “looks like you better save some more quarters.” It has helped us cut down on the amount of clutter we have, especially those low quality toys that get played with once or twice and then break. We hope to teach them that it is better to acquire the things in life they want by earning them.