TTOTD = tiny treat of the day. One of our incentive systems for practicing. Candy for practicing isn’t unusual but I’ve tried to change it up a bit to heighten the interest, and our method is still working well a couple months later.
Our standard treat is mini marshmallows. That’s what she gets if we don’t have TTOTD.
TTOTD are other treats that vary from day to day. I choose small candies — M&Ms, Smarties, Skittles, jelly beans, Mike & Ikes. I load up a day or two’s worth in an Altoids tin and keep it shut so she won’t know what is the TTOTD until she is done practicing. Sometimes I shake the tin during practice if she needs a little motivation. But she doesn’t get TTOTD every day, it’s more like every other day but on a random basis.
I confess that the biggest contributor to the randomness is whether I have remembered to refill the tin the night before. Part of the mystery is that she doesn’t know where I have hidden the rest of the candy. (Sometimes I wish I didn’t know where I have hidden the rest of the candy.)
At first I doled out marshmallows, or pieces of candy in response to playing her pieces through, or practicing difficult sections. This was a good motivator. But she’s been pretty consistent with her practicing, so we have now jumped to a standard amount for a typical practice session. Much easier for me to keep track.
Using anything as a reward for practicing sometimes raises eyebrows. With rewards there is concern that intrinsic motivation is bypassed, and that the child will only play as a result of being enticed.
I don’t find this to be the case. All of the rewards we use are small enough that I don’t think they would encourage behavior that was not already going to happen. I think of them more as acknowledgements that desired activity has occurred, than as something that coerces her to do something she wouldn’t otherwise do. I do hope that at some point she will age out of needing something like this, but for a ten-year-old it helps practice sessions run more smoothly.
I like TTOTD because they give a way for me to demonstrate that I agree that she has put in a good effort at practicing. Keeping the TTOTD a mystery makes it a little more fun, she speculates on what the treat might be, and is excited when she opens the box to find out. On the occasional days where effort is not put forth, TTOTD gives me a way to say what I think without using words or nagging — I just dial down the number of treats. If she asks why so few, I tell her. I can also easily change the rationale for what she has to do to get treats, as I did when we started “just three words.” The amounts are adaptable depending on the candy size — Mike & Ikes are larger, so each counts as two regular candies. And finally I like TTOTD because it keeps the number of candies within my arms reach at a minimum.
She likes TTOTD because candy, duh. And I think she likes the acknowledgement of her effort.