Monday, September 3, 2012

Bring in the Reinforcements: A Before & After in Behavior

Ahh, parenthood.  Isn’t it great?  Seriously,  However… Big, Fat, HOWEVER, it’s hard. There are days when I feel like I should record what I say in the morning so I can just hit “play” throughout the day because the boys don’t seem to hear me the first 43 times I say something.  I don’t think I’m alone with that one. Two years ago after a few particularly trying days of too much yelling, crying and screaming, I had to do something for my sanity.  Time outs and privileges being taken away weren’t enough.  Without lowering my standards and letting the kids run me over, I switched directions with a new focus on the positive.

I let the boys in on my (not evil) plan.  After a trip to the craft store, we came home with marbles, acrylic containers, and a glass square vase.  I drew a line on each jar with an acrylic pen, wrote their names, and gave them some stickers.  Each time the boys did something I’d like them to repeat, they got a marble in their marble jars- instant gratification- smiles- no tears!

When their jar hit the line, they got a reward.  This started two years ago and we’re still going.  It hasn’t been a cure-all, but every little bit helps. 

Here are a few things they do to earn marbles:
  • doing homework without stalling
  • help empty the dishwasher
  • help each other
  • do something thoughtful
  • put their clothes away
  • feed our dog
  • use manners
  • try a new food
  • doing chores or routines without being reminded
This isn’t an exhaustive list.  It’s always evolving to fit whatever issue needs to be addressed.  At one point, one of the boys was earning them each morning for staying in his bed at night.  I envision school work will become a bigger part each year as homework gets heavier. 

What do they earn as rewards?  That changes, too.  It could be a trip to a store to buy a small toy ($5-$10 max), cash to save, ice cream, a special trip somewhere, etc.  Basically, we give them some ideas to get started and go from there.  Most of the time, they have plans for what they’re going to get as soon as they start filling up an empty jar.  

How often do they get rewards?  It all depends- on both their behavior and how good my husband and I are about identifying the behaviors we like.  

I try to keep this purely positive.  We’ve tried taking marbles away for bad behavior, but I like letting other consequences happen for bad behavior and only use the marbles for good behavior.

 The boys’ jars sit right beside each other and so far we’ve been able to nip any comparisons to their brother’s jar.  I don’t want it to be a competition with anyone but themselves. 

This has been going for two years and since the jars are in our kitchen, they’re always in plain view and we can keep it on our minds.  It’s not dying off.  HOWEVER (Yep, another big, fat, HOWEVER), some of the bad behaviors we started with are. :)
What’s working for your family?  

Have you ever seen Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s success with positive reinforcement? 
Did you read all the way to the end of this post? Would you like a chocolate? ;)

I'm linked up with Tip Junkie,  Savvy Southern Style, Be Colorful, Between Naps on the Porch, Home Stories A2Z, Nap Time Creations, and Today's Creative Blog!


  1. This is brilliant! Wish I had thought of something like this when my son was small. I love how positive it is, too! :)

  2. Positive reinforcement is always better than threats and punishment. Thanks for sharing your smart parenting hint on BeColorful this week.