Before being a parent, I had no idea about the power of a nickle. They work for everything from awards to bribery. Our latest nickle use had proved to be quite beneficial. A couple of months ago we initiated using nickles at dinner. We've always had a lack of manners at the dinner table, so here's how we are remedying our problem.

Before dinner starts, everyone gets three nickles. If you catch someone using bad manners, they have to put one of their nickles back in the bowl. Catching Mom and Dad is a special treat (also a great way to exaggerate kids' bad manners). Everyone gets to keep the nickles left at the end of dinner. Mom and Dad's usually go back into the bowl for another day.

The only problem we've had so far is Ashy refusing to give up a nickle and often hiding them. But they both think now about using good manners. In fact, tonight, when Emma spoke with food in her mouth, she caught herself twice and gave up nickles without any prompting. And at meals when we choose not to use them, we often hear, "You would have lost a nickle over that." It's been fun and a special treat to go buy something with saved up nickles. Everyone wins.