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Treasuring Family, Freedom & Fun Climb Aboard A Pirate's Life for Me

Keep to the Code – A Behavior Reward System for Young Pirates

Keeping to our new philosophy of piratude, our family has found a fun and positive behavior reward system for our three kids that works for us and I am excited to share it with you today.

Guiding and nurturing children to eventually become responsible adults and upstanding citizens is a main tenet of parenthood and we all accept this heavy responsibility. Convincing children to make their beds, stop hitting their siblings, and not talk back is a day-to-day struggle for many parents, myself included.

No parent knowingly wants their children to turn into entitled adults without sense of personal responsibility. That does not make the kind of kid who will watch out for us in our golden years. And who wants to constantly be bailing their kids out of jail anyway? That’s expensive and we have retirement plans to be on a beach somewhere anyway.

Therefore, we all create house rules and remind our children to use good manners and do their chores ad nauseam. Because it gets tiring to constantly be reminding the kids to do good, we find methods to either incentivize or punish them into accepting their roles in the household. Punishment very rarely works in our home so incentives were the way to go for our family.

The Pirate Code 

Though pirates were ruthless treasure hunters who pillaged and plundered their way through the world’s oceans, they lived and died by a very strict code. In order to live somewhat peaceably on the ship, all buccaneers followed a set of rules governed by the group. Break one of those rules, and the wrath of the entire ship might come down upon you.

Modern families should use the pirate code to create a similar attitude toward house duties and personal responsibility. Children with piratude stick to a code of personal responsibility and good behavior at home.

Our family has a set of rules (The Pirate Code). Since we have very young children, we stick to the very basics:


We Love Each Other

To love each other is to be respectful of everyone’s personal space. It is behaving in a loving way while requesting something or communicating with anyone in the family about our wants and needs. When I hear cries of “I don’t like [ … ] because he/she [fill in the blank]” or “Give me juice!,”  I re-direct their attention to our family code (which we display prominently on our kitchen wall).

We Have Fun

This is a code that reminds us that in all our family interactions, we value fun. We make it a point to do at least one family-centric activity each weekend and fit them in during the week after school when we can.

Enjoying time with one another is one of the most important values we hold. It is part of our code.

We Choose Hugs

This is a positive way of saying “don’t smack your sister on the head!”  When physical altercations between the children happen (as they definitely do), our mantra is We don’t hit; We hug.

We Hold Hands Crossing the Street

With three kids under seven, it’s tough to get across the street. This is a no-brainer rule in our household.

We Listen to Our Mommy and Daddy

Ah, my favorite code. This one is great for when I find myself repeating something over and over “I told you to stop jumping on the couch!” Now, I can summon my children to the Family Code board and point out that not following the code will result in no additional treasure that evening.


Yes, treasure! Pirates are incentivized by rich bounty and sparkly items and honestly, children are no different. Since we don’t want to actually pay our children to be good we give them faux treasure.

Before beginning on this adventure, I ran to Michael’s Craft Supply and purchased a few plain wood treasure boxes for about $1.50 each. I then purchased a big bag of jeweled embellishments for approximately $10. At a local party store, I was able to find plastic gold doubloons.

I gave the kids markers, stickers and paint one day and let them decorate their own treasure boxes.


After everyone was finished with their works of art, I sat them down and explained how they could receive treasure to fill their chests.

Jewels for Attitudes (Positive Behaviors)

When the kids are listening and adhering to the family code, they receive a jewel in their treasure chests. You are being a real gem! 

Coins for Actions (Chores)

Because running a ship-shape home requires more than just a positive attitude, we also reward the children with gold doubloons for chores they are asked to do as part of the household (e.g. feeding the dog, setting the plates for dinner, clearing the plates after dinner, throwing away a diaper after a change, etc.) If you are looking for ideas on what types of chores kids can do by age, lifehacker.com has a good list.

Cashing In

The riches they accumulate are totaled at the end of each week. This booty can then be exchanged for extra family time or individual time with a parent. Of course, we also allow buying an extra snack or something from the dollar spot at Target. The idea is that when we are good to one another, we spend less time fighting and have more time to do fun activities as a family.


 Here are just a few examples of what treasures can purchase in our household:

  1. Extra book before bed (Ex. 1 medium jewel)
  2. 10 minutes more to play a video game (Ex. 1 large jewel)
  3. Bike Ride with Dad (Ex. 6 gold doubloons)
  4. Ice Cream Trip with Mom (Ex. 6 gold doubloons)
  5. Living Room Dance Party (Ex. combo of 10 doubloons/jewels)
  6. Holding the Dog’s Leash on the Family Walk (Ex. 4 jewels)
  7. Pick Restaurant for Dinner (Ex. 8 large jewels)
  8. At-Home Manicures or Pedicures (Ex. 3 jewels any size)
  9. Line Leader for the Day (Ex. 3 gold doubloons)
  10. Pick Movie for Family Movie Night (Ex. 5 gold doubloons)
  11. Pick Game for Family Game Night (Ex. 6 jewels any size)
  12. Small Toy from Dollar Spot at Target (Ex. 10 jewels any size)

Behavior Reward System

This system of rewarding behavior with pirate treasure has captured the imagination of the children and we have found it to be a fantastic way to both have fun with chores and create a positive atmosphere at home. Are you interested in implementing this at home? Comment below and let me know your progress.

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