Well, I also very tired of reminding them. So, what to do?
2 days back
Me: Who brushed their teeth this morning?
Me: Nobody brushed?
DD: We forgot.
Me: Ow, that's too bad. I wanted to give 10 cents to the person who had brushed their teeth. I guess nobody gets it then.
DD: Okay, I'm going to brush now.
Me: No, it doesn't work that way. From now on, I will give 10 cents to the person who answers "yes" when I ask "who brushed their teeth this morning?" BUT, you won't know when I will ask. I won't ask everyday. If you want the 10 cents, then just make sure you remember to brush everyday. So when I do ask, you can say "yes".
Me: Did you guys remember to brush your teeth?
Children: Aiyah, no.
This Morning -- They woke up early and had already gone downstairs. Not long after I see them rushing back into the room and into the bathroom.
DS: Mommy, I'm going to brush my teeth.
DD: Me too.
DS: Mommy, can you give me 10cents?
Me: But I haven't asked the question.
Later he asked me again if I was going to give him 10 cents. Again I said he must wait for my question. Eventually I asked the "golden" question and they both got their 10 cents. I didn't want to disappoint them. And the funny part was, he came to me a few minutes later and said "here Mommy, you can have back the 10 cents, so you can buy food." Hahahaha.
Some might not agree with monetary rewards to encourage certain behaviors in children. They say intrinsic rewards work better than extrinsic rewards. Meaning, it doesn't help when children do something just to get a reward. It would be better if they did it because of internal motivation e.g. brushing teeth so my teeth don't rot, so my breath is nice, or so my teeth are clean and white.
So why am I doing this?
- Well, for one thing, telling them I'll give them a hug after every brush just doesn't seem to work anymore. I had to get their attention and offer something that would stick in their mind (for a while, anyway). I know they have been playing with their pile of coins lately, so I decided to go with that current interest.
- They still don't really understand the value of money. So whether it is 10 cents or $100, it doesn't make a difference. The 10 cents is just a gift token. You could replace it with anything that is of value to them, e.g. a sticker, an ice cream etc....
- How you play the game matters. There are different ways to apply positive reinforcement. You could give the reward every time your child brushes his teeth, or you could make your reward schedule unknown. I chose to do the latter. Meaning, my children won't know when they will be rewarded. According to my psychology lessons (that I learned way back in Uni), having an uncertain reward schedule works better. An example is why do people get addicted to gambling? Because they don't know when they might hit that "jackpot". It is the "I might win this time" that gets people hooked.
- Of course this reward is only to get them started. I will eventually stop using it. The "proper" reasons for brushing teeth will continue to be taught. AND hugs and praise will continue to be given :)