Last spring, Laramie Mergerson was having a parenting dilemma many can relate to. He didn’t know if his son Tre, who lives in University Park, was doing his school-assigne d reading. The solution he came up with was an app that allowed him to track Tre’s homework and chores remotely and reward him for completing tasks.
“I called it Dangle and made the logo a carrot. My mom raised me, pretty successfully, on a sort of rewards system. It’s all about rewards with kids and with the app I could stay engaged and watch him succeed, with achieving his rewards and in school,” Mergerson said.
What started as a personal solution for Mergerson and his son has grown into a modern day allowance system for a tech-obsessed, want-it-now generation: a fully launched and operational app that allows parents to keep track of their kids’ time management and chores with the push of a button.
“It creates a collaborative environment,” Mergerson said. “You’re deciding on goals together and assigning points to make them achievable. My advice? Make that first reward achievable in a week or two, so they can see themselves as successful. From there, you can see what works for your family.”
Dangle offers a dual interface that both parents and kids can access from accounts on iPhones or iPads, with an Android app in the works. Mergerson suggests parents using Dangle sit down with their children to decide o n the tasks and how many points will be assigned to each task. Then, as kids complete their chores (think: make their bed, do their reading, take out the trash), they can check off their task on the app.
“This was our most productive summer ever because of Dangle,” said University Park mom Carol Piering. “It rewards them in ways they like, giving them guidelines and structure, but at the same time autonomy within those guidelines. Dangle gives them a reward that they can pace themselves to earn and allows them to do it on electronics.”
The app allows kids to attach photos or video to their task, so parents don’t have to check that a bed is in fact made or that homework has been completed.
For Mergerson, an SMU MBA graduate, the app was a way to stay connected to his son through the school year and prevent a summer slide. But for Tre, it’s turned into much more.
“The app has been habit forming,” Mergerson said. “He’s taken on more responsibilities on tasks that aren’t even assigned in the app and he’s taking initiative without even being asked.”
The app also saves time that would have been spent arguing or protesting against chores. Piering says in her family, her fifth grader and third grader don’t have to listen to any motherly nagging and the two are encouraged to take initiative with their chores.
“We tried the chore chart and a bulletin board, but Dangle has worked the longest. They don’t have to keep hearing Mom say, ‘Did you do this, did you do that?’ Now, they just go running when they get a notification from the app because they know they needed to get their points up,” Piering said.
While Mergerson’s son hit his goal this summer for a hoverboard, Piering’s two children agreed upon a more traditional cash allowance for their reward. Each time they reached the assigned amount of points, they earned the agreed upon allowance.
“It’s been a really great conversation starter with our kids about a rewards system: you have to do work before you earn something,” Piering said. “My daughter opened her first savings account this summer and saved every penny she earned from Dangle.”