Thursday, January 21, 2010

The family jewels

A few weeks ago I blogged about this (establishing some solid rules for our home) and started the search for appropriate rewards/consequences for the different ages of our girls.

The researcher in me went into high gear and finally found an awesome system.  I'm so excited to share it!!

Some have referred to it as a "marble jar" system but since we didn't have marbles, we used Princess jewels from Disneyland.

(This works with pennies, marbles, those little clear rocks you put in the bottom of a vase, etc.  Anything that makes a 'plink' sound when it goes into a jar).

Our goal (and duty) as parents is to raise well-adjusted, kind-hearted, rule-abiding, God-fearing, children.  Not necessarily in that order.   There are a number of different ways to achieve those goals, and I believe our jewel system is a great tool.  Let me explain how it works:

Each child gets a jar (or a glass bowl as it is in our house) with his/her name on it.

Each Sunday (or whichever day you decide), he/she begins the week with ten jewels.  When he/she makes a poor choice or disobeys (or doesn't listen the first time asked, etc), you ask him/her to go get a jewel out of their jar and bring it to you.  Likewise, when you see your child doing something you really like or appreciate, he/she is given a jewel and told to go put it in his/her jar.  (There's something about the plinking sound that makes them SO delighted too!).  On Saturday (or the day before they "start over"), you count up their jewels.

If they have 5 or less, they lose a privilege for an entire day (tv, computer, playtime, dessert, etc...whatever you choose and it may be different for each child).  If they have 7 or more, they get to choose from the "treat list" that you create or a "treat box" that you fill with appropriate items.  Our list has the following "treats" on it:

1. Playtime at the park
2. A trip to the dollar store
3. Time alone with one parent
4. Frozen yogurt at a self-serve
5. Movie rental

Notice that two of these don't actually cost anything, and the ones that do cost money, cost very little.  You create the rewards so you have control over what their "reward" is.  It's not meant to be a "thank you for doing what you are supposed to do so let's go to toys r us and buy you an expensive toy" kind of thing.  :D

We love this system for a variety of reasons.

First, it eliminates the constant asking.  If they do not obey the first time, our girls are told to go get a jewel out of their jar and then they are pretty quick to comply.  I don't usually have to raise my voice.  I just say "please go get a jewel out of your jar and bring it to me and then do as you were asked please."  Much more pleasant than the alternative. It also separates them from a situation if there is bickering.  If the girls are fighting, I tell them to each go get a jewel and bring it to me and then go do something different.  It just diffuses the situation immediately.

Next, it's adjustable.  You can add a time out at any point.  "Please go get a jewel and then you need to sit in time out for four minutes."  Or, if it's a large offense, you can ask your child to bring you 2 or 3 jewels to really make a point.  I have a friend that just implemented the marble jar as well and she takes three automatically for biting, kicking, or hitting.

It's also "individual."  Skylar was getting out of her bed at night and going into Reagan's room to sleep.  Reagan wanted her to stop, so we told Skylar that she would lose a jewel if she did not stay in her bed.  She has not been out of bed since we said that.  I have been rewarding her in the morning with a jewel if she does stay in her bed.  Obviously it wouldn't make sense to reward Reagan for the same thing because she has no trouble staying in her bed at night. :)

Also, it teaches what is important to us as parents, like sharing, and loving your siblings.  Just this week I said "Reagan, I noticed you shared your treat with your sister.  I love when you share without being asked so you may go put a jewel in your jar."  On the flipside of that, they understand that obedience is important to us also.  "You chose not to obey the first time I asked, so you need to go remove a jewel from your jar."

It also teaches delayed gratification. Yes, there is gratification in the "plink" of receiving a jewel, but ultimately their prize only comes once a week.  It keeps them guessing too.  We don't reward EVERY time my girls obey so they have to keep being good and wait for us to reward their behavior.

It's also helpful while you are out.  Just this past week, I asked Skylar to stop climbing on a planter at Reagan's school.  When she disobeyed and kept climbing on it, I said, "when we get home, you need to remove a jewel from your jar.  If you would like to not lose any more, I suggest you get down now."

It puts pressure where it should be: on the parents.  We have to make our expectations known and when they don't meet them, it's up to US as parents to provide the consequence, consistently.  It's also up to US as parents to show them what we DO want.  If I want my children to speak kindly, I need to speak kindly to others.  Being aware of their behavior should make us aware of our own.

For obvious reasons we do not have a marble jar for Bailey yet.  I suggest that kids be at a minimum age of 3 for this to work cognitively (and for the choking hazard).  I can't wait for Bailey to hit 3!

I know this has been long, but I hope it was worth the read.  I just love when something works!


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