First, the marble system fundamentally boils down to a physical reward for doing something that mom and dad like. Rewarding kids is important, and they need a wide variety of positive reinforcements for good behaviors to turn into habits, which build into enjoyable personalities, and the marble system is meant to be used as an add-on to praise, treats, affection, quality time, and entertainment as rewards.
My kids have now learned that marbles are valuable. They owe me 14 marbles per week for their room and board, which has helped them learn to take initiative (particularly on the weekends before rent falls due). V grows much more helpful on the weekends just before Rent is due, whereas N gets more conservative with her spending habits. Y, the 2 year old, has just learned that she gets more freedom and goodies when she does what she's told, and I think she understands that marbles translates to good things happening for her. Each trip to the store becomes a thrill to the kids, because they're looking to spend their marbles on toys, or candy. The best part about the marble system is that mom and dad have no say in how they chose to spend their marbles, or when they can play with the toys that they bought.
Ownership seems to be a lot more important to kids than I thought. I'm not talking about gifts and birthday toys, though those are important. I'm talking about the process of working, saving, and earning something. It's theirs, and no one can take it from them. Having those havens of ownership has cut down on fighting significantly.
N has things that are specifically hers, and if Y or V ask to use them, we say, "talk to N." Giving kids this dominion has become a tool to actually teach sharing, because Dani and I will never infringe on our kids genuine property rights for the items that they earned.
If you'd like to try the marble system in your own home, here's how we got it started.
Create a chart of things that improve the quality of life in your home, and things that kids do that decrease the quality of life in your home. Some examples:
|Showing kindness without being asked|
|Helping with the dishes|
|Living room cleaned before bedtime|
|Getting dressed (morning)|
|Getting Breakfast On Your Own|
|1 Hour of TV|
|1 Hour of Computer Games|
|Making Mom or Dad Ask More Than Once|
|Not taking care of yourself|
This is a baseline for our "marble" chart. Dani put pictures by each task to remind the kids what each one was, and laminated it. We use a dry-erase marker to keep track of what they've done during the week, and then jars that contain their running totals. Usually, we try to give them the marble right when they finish doing something good, but N and V really like the accounting part of it, so we keep track of their money with both their running-total marble jar, and their tally points on the chore board.