Anyone who works with children will tell you that it often becomes easy to spend too much time focusing on the negative; it can be hard to remember the positives – or have time to celebrate them.

It has been stated, by researchers with the Harvard Business Review that a ratio of five positive comments for one negative comment is optimal (Zenger, Folkman, 2013). What does this look like when working with a large group of children living together in a combined family? One struggle is the ease with which we begin to focus on simply managing the chaos rather than promoting, encouraging and acknowledging growth.

How do we acknowledge growth?

When each child comes to us a service plan is written which includes, among other things, goals that the child should work on. Their input as well as that of the adults surrounding them, is included in this plan. For example; a goal may read that “Liza will sit correctly at the table.” It’s easy to notice when she does not but what about when she does? What will help her to learn that doing this is not just something adults say she should do but that is something that is important to do?

One of the ways we recognize good behavior is with the “coupon jar”.

Helping with a good attitude, doing more than what was expected, working hard on a behavior they have been asked to improve, a week with no notes from the teacher, having the cleanest room, not having to be reminded of your responsibilities – all these, and many more, are reasons a child would receive a coupon.

Coupons at our cottage are good for: gum, weekday chore pass, a weekend bedtime extension of 30 minutes, double allowance, getting an item back from the confiscation box, a prize from the prize box ( we have separate boxes for the older and younger residents), a candy bar, ice cream; or getting to choose dinner or one of the sugary snacks for the following week.

A few pictures below are to give you an idea of what we do, but this concept can be easily adapted to your own preferences; for whatever purpose and with your own choice of rewards.



Zenger, J. & Folkman, J. (2013, March 15). The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio. Retrieved

September 18, 2017, from

Business Review

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