OMD/622/Incentive Systems for Teens

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This situation has been brought about by a Mom in NZ, wanting to get her 18-year old son to text her and husband more often.

  • My name is Sarah and I have a son who has just turned 18. He has started going 'out on the town' at the weekend in the evenings. There have been an number of serious incidents in town where young people have been attacked & seriously hurt. My son is a responsible young man but I am concerned that he'll be dragged into 'trouble'. I do not want to (and cannot) stop him going out, but I just want to know that he is safe. So I have asked him to text me to let me know how he is and when he'll be home, so I know not to worry about him. But he never texts me. Consequently, I have woken up at late at night and not known where/how he is. This may sound like I am fussing too much but I believe that he still needs boundaries to guide his behavior.

I would like to develop a plan that will encourage him to keep in touch with me by text so that I know he is safe and he can have fun without me nagging him all the time.

The Traditional Approach

  • Nag, nag, nag (parent)
  • Get rebellious behaviour (teen)
  • Ground the difficult one (this is the teen, from the parent's point of view)
  • Set the stage for future rebellious and cantankerous behaviour (i.e., no-one's needs get met)

A Different Approach: Incentive System to Reward Performance

Design Phase

  • Interview individual to find out what he wants, and / or values the most - this could have a cash / non-cash value; could also be small or large (say: $100, $500 dollars, for example)
    • Sample Questions (below)
    • What do you consider is a reasonable time to be expected home at night?
    • What do you think is the best way to communicate your plans to your parents?
    • At what time intervals do you think it is reasonable to contact your parents about your plans?
    • What do you think you should do with regards to informing your parents about your change of plans?
    • What would you do in an emergency?
    • What would encourage you to keep in regular contact with your parents when you are out at night?
    • What do you think should happen if you do not keep to your agreement with your parents?

    • Insert feedback below (i.e., interview results)
  • Design incentive system based on points for specific behaviours
    • Home by 3am
    • Quick knock on our bedroom door to say he's home
    • Text at 1am to check in with us
    • Text at 3am if there is a change of plan eg he is going to stay night with his sister
    • Text if there is any trouble or emergency

Sarah's Bottom Line

I don't want to wake up in the morning and find an empty bed and not know where he is.

  • I guess one of the discussions we need to have now is about what time is 'home time'.
  • What do people think is a reasonable home time for an 18 year old. (Comment.gif: Who are the 'people' you are referring to? Are they parents, the boy's peers? How are you going to get this information? Are you going to use all of it, some of it, or some of it in stages)
    • I am going to ask my son the questions I have developed above and also his friends. It would also be interesting to get some feedback from parents so I might have a ring around of some parents I know. Any suggestions from the community here will be gratefully received.
  • Cash would probably be the strongest incentive. But I am reluctant to go down that road because he really should do this as a matter of course - it is not an 'extra', but an 'essential' behaviour. If I use cash, it will have to be a much smaller amount. (Comment.gif: Sarah - the purpose of the cash / non-cash incentive is really to give him a goal....and then to set in place incentives to reach that goal, to achieve the essential behaviour that You Require).
  • Yes, I realised that was a stupid statement as soon as I saved it, considering this is an incentive program. I'll get some feedback first about what my son and his friends think is a reasonable incentive.

Why don't you speficy an amount that you would be willing to spend.....The key is though, it's about what the boy wants....and there are different ways to achieve that - beyond what you might be thinking....remember, we have a whole community of support here!

Implementation Phase

coming soon!