Bean Counting

So, every now and then I have (get? exhibit?) a stroke of genius when it comes to making things work a little more smoothly around home.

And of course, I should blog about it when that happens, right?

Sometime before Christmas I dreamed up Super Fantabulous Magic OTOWAHA Beans. We implemented them about a month or so ago and have now polished the system. It has worked a few wonders at our house.

Wanna know more?

The Problem(s) That Needed Addressed:

1. Whining, complaining, throwing-self-on-the-floor behavior over even the smallest requests.
2. Complete ignoring of the parents.
3. "Forgetting" to do things that they know they should do, or things that they have been asked to do "eighty nine million times."
4. General unhelpfulness and demandingness.
5. Parents that were frazzled, hoarse from repeating and nagging, and frustrated that even the smallest tasks of the day (getting coats on, picking up a few toys, washing hands) took "eighty-nine million years" to accomplish on a daily basis.

The Solution:

An easy, mostly self-governing way to encourage positive behavior in order to get rid of the negative.

Namely, Super Fantabulous Magic OTOWAHA Beans!!!

How They Work:

Calvin and Henry each have an empty baby food jar for their weekly OTOWAHA beans. (Ours are dried pinto beans - you can use black-eyed peas or great northern whites or whatever).

Every Sunday, they get twelve OTOWAHA Beans in their jar.

Each OTOWAHA Bean equals five minutes of Wii or computer game time. So, they start out with an hour to play for the week, if they don't earn any more beans as they go.

How do they earn beans? Simple - it's in the name: O T O W A H A.

They get a bean every time they're asked to do something and they do it after being asked

O ne
T ime
O nly

AND they do it

W ith
H appy
A ttitude

They have to respond both ways - quickly and pleasantly- to earn a bean. (This because even when something is done right away, it's still a problem if it's accompanied with screaming, stomping and complaining the whole way. The whole, "if you give a gift grudgingly, it counts as nothing" principle...)

David and I, for our part, have tried to be careful to make it clear and make sure the boys are hearing and listening when we ask them to do something. We give ample response time instead of going into instant automatic repeat mode. And, we try to give the beans as immediately as possible when a job is done quickly and happily.

We also have been generous with beans when the requests are unusually helpful (they ran to get a cloth when I was covered in Jane spit-up), a little larger (putting away all their folded laundry by themselves), or when the boys have complied without conflict on something that is usually ugly (getting coats, boots, hats, gloves on in time to catch the bus).


As promised on the label that I made for the magic beans, the boys' Wii and computer time has multiplied, their parents have become much more pleasant, their days are happier, and they are well on their way to becoming Super Boys!

I can't even say how much better it makes my life not to have to cajole and plead over every little thing. I also see my kids feeling a lot better about life in general when they do tasks quickly and pleasantly - they have realized how it helps them get on with the good parts of the day if they just do something instead of fighting it. Having an immediate perk for quick obedience and a cooperative attitude has helped them stop and think before they pitch a fit.

We have tried not to make too many extra conditions on earning or keeping the beans, although a couple times it has been useful to remove a bean or two when one of the boys has forgotten himself and thrown a fit.

And we do stick to our guns pretty well about 'one time only' - they either take advantage of the opportunity, or they lose it. Often, the opportunity will get passed on to a brother, who will earn a bean for it. That serves as a silent reminder of what quick obedience gets you, with no nagging or reminding or threatening from the parents.

Overall, the boys have made the bean counting run with very little instigation on our part. We explained the rules and set it in motion, and the boys have been more than happy to keep it going, which is fabulous, and, I think, the mark of an effective system.

There are also some happy bonus side effects that I hadn't totally anticipated (I'm not that brilliant): They are learning some mad math skills. Their 5s times table is all but memorized at this point - they no longer count by fives to know how many minutes their beans equal - they mulitply by five!

We have also made it a habit for them to decide how many beans they want to spend based on how many beans they have accumulated, then set a timer for that many minutes when they begin computer or Wii time. This makes an activity that might otherwise be a mindless minute and hour vacuum into a more conscious use of time, and it helps them make a frugal "spending" decision. They can't spend more than they have, and they have also learned that it's funner to save up for a big block of time rather than one or two beans' worth.

And although Charlie isn't quite old enough to care about Wii or computer time, so the system doesn't apply to him yet, he is learning the concept of quick and happy obedience. It makes me laugh that every time he hears someone remind someone else, "One time only," he chirps the other half of the requirement: "Wif hoppy annitude!"

OTOWAHA Beans are our new kind of magical fruit.


Andrea said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing. We could use some of those beans in our house.
Love that it limits the computer time (or makes them think about it) and encourages happy attitudes.

Kendra said...

that is wonderful. We might adopt this system. We need some attitude adjusting around our house as well!

Janelle said...

Awesome program! I think we'll do it too! It will also be a good way to limit Wii time, that can get out of hand on the weekend for us.

MotherT said...

That is a great idea! I just sent the link to my youngest daughter who has been dealing with rotten 'tude from her oldest.

Jenny P. said...

Brilliant!! I also love the link to computer/Wii time. That's the biggest challenge in our house. It's something the kids always want to do, but are only allowed to do on weekends, because I refuse to have them plugged in all the time. Seems like this would be a great system though... Thanks for sharing!

Code Yellow Dad said...

I can't even explain how much easier this has made getting the boys up in the morning, eating breakfast, getting dressed, bundling up, and making it to the bus on time. It is like night and day. One of Code Yellow Mom's many strokes of genius.

Code Yellow Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Ogre said...

This is The Ogre (Theresa's daughter). As soon as the Woodsman gets home, he'll be checking this out for our boy. Due to the same issues you all are having, our Boy isn't allowed Wii, computer, or DS games! Mayhap, things will soon be changing! Thank you

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

These beans sound better than the ones that Jack traded the cow for.

Linda Stahr said...

Yeah... so we started this yesterday with beans going into effect today... Ours are good for playing with toys (which are currently in time out...) or watching television. So far it's been a positive for Margaret, who is four. Savannah hates it. She has yet to learn the action vs reaction thing, and thinks it totally unfair that Margaret is quick to obey and earn beans. I'll give Savannah a week to figure it out before I start implimenting stricter rules for HER beans. In the meantime, I'm glad (sort-of) that someone else has the exact same issues with their children that I have with mine!

megachick said...

brilliant! this sounds like an excellent plan for the issues going on in my house. it will come in especially handy now that daddy (the buffer) will be working evenings. i lose my temper soooo fast when it's not "otowaha".