Happy 2019 everyone! I hope your new year is off to a fabulous start! My kids, I’m sure like all of yours, have made their New Year resolutions—not to fight with their siblings, help mom with dinner, walk the dog when she needs it, etc. Oh, wait…not so accurate, right? Instead of making New Year resolutions, are your kids going stir crazy at home, doing everything in their power to annoy their siblings and thinking only of themselves? Okay, now that sounds more like it! I can see you all nodding in agreement. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you.
But that’s the great thing about starting a new year. Once a year, we adults give ourselves the hope of a “fresh start,” and this year, I’m also convinced my kids can have a fresh start as well. I recently implemented a system that focuses more on rewarding good behavior than punishing bad behavior, and despite my skepticism, I found it to be quite effective! Keep reading below to see how you can give your kids’ behavior a fresh start in 2019!
The concept is simple: reward your children for good behavior. I know it sounds cliche, but let me tell you how it works. I gave each child what we now in our family refer to as a “puff ball jar.” It’s a clear glass jar, the size of your choosing. I purchased our glass jars at The Container Store; they are about 7” in circumference. They have easy on/off lids that the kids can take on and off themselves.
We also bought some colorful letter stickers, and each child put his/her name on the jar. You could also add more decorations—totally up to you! We kept ours pretty simple so that we could see all the puff balls that are filling up our jars.
Next step is to pick out an item that you will be filling your jar with—the thing that you get when you do a good deed. We chose puff balls, or pom poms that are found in the kids craft section of most stores. They come in all different sizes and colors, but be sure to match the size of your puff ball to the jar somewhat.
For example, the kids should be able to fill it in a reasonable amount of time so that they don’t lose interest in earning them. Conversely, don’t pick jars that are too small unless you want to be doling out rewards every other day! To give you an example, my daughter Ariella was the first one to fill her jar, and it took her a couple of months. For younger kids and toddlers, I’d suggest a shorter time span and smaller rewards to keep them motivated.
Here’s how we did our reward system. Good deeds—ones that go above and beyond—earn puff balls. The kids have to do the behavior without me having to hound or nag them. Doing things they are already supposed to be doing without me asking (cleaning their rooms, putting away shoes, getting ready for bed) do not earn puff balls because they are supposed to be doing those things anyway. We reserve puff balls for REALLY good behavior.
Examples of these behaviors included:
Setting the table for dinner
Cleaning up the table and washing dishes
Helping to cook dinner
Taking care of the dog
Resolving conflicts between themselves
Helping another sibling do something that he or she needs help with
Cheering up someone when he or she is sad or needs a friend
Thinking of others before yourself
Choosing to do “right” in a situation in which others are choosing to do “wrong”
Like I said before, my middle daughter Ariella was highly motivated to fill her jar. We told them that whenever their jar is filled, they get to pick an activity of their own choosing and earn a special day alone with Mom. Ariella picked to go ice skating and have a day out shopping, and it really was a very magical day for us both. Those of you out there with multiple kids know that it’s difficult to get one-on-one time with your children. Plus, my other two kids saw what a great time she had on her special day, and now they are desperately racing to fill their jars! It’s a win-win.
The thing I love about this activity is that we only focused only positive behavior. The kids didn’t lose puff balls if they acted poorly, they simply saw their siblings earning them by modeling positive behavior and wanted to copy that.
I never in my life had so many kids BEGGING to help me with dinner or clean up. I was shocked by it to be quite honest! This reward system is great for toddlers and also worked well for my kids aged 5, 7 and 8. Once they’ve filled their jars, you just empty it and start over as they work toward their next reward. Hopefully, like me, you’ll soon have kids begging to do the dishes or sweep the floor! How’s that for a great start to 2019?