Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Marble Jar and Parenting Successes

I must admit that as a mother of 4, with my oldest being 10.5, and with a blog with the name parenting in the title.... I don't have parenting all figured out. Not by a long shot. I'm just trying to muddle my way through, like everyone else.
I've noticed the thing that gets me is how to encourage the type of behavior I want to see and discourage behavior that I don't. Unfortunately, I'll also admit that I've resorted far too many times to bribes, specifically candies and treats and all sorts of other junk that I don't want my kids to be having anyhow, let alone as a reward for good behavior.

I mean, I try to do the whole motivate your kids so they want to behave well thing, explaining things to them, but I have children with which this simply doesn't work. And I get really frustrated.
People kept on recommending a sticker chart to me, that hopefully it would help motivate my children. But unfortunately, it didn't work. My kids kept trying to play with the stickers, the sticker chart fell off the fridge, and honestly, worst of all, there was no way to give a consequence for misbehavior. So as much as I wanted to reward good behavior, and feel that that is the ideal, I felt stuck when it came to misbehavior. I didn't know what to do. Misbehavior just frustrated me so much, and I'll admit it, I've lost it over that more times than I care to share.
I didn't know what to do, and finally, I got the idea from a friend, inspired a bit also by Harry Potter as well, I'll admit. And fortunately, over a month later, I can tell you it is working.

My kids and I had a family meeting, because I figured any change that I implement with the family would work best with everyone's input.
We all brought up a list of everything on everyone's agenda, wrote down minutes, and made sure to cover as many of the topics as we could. My main agenda was figuring out what to do about misbehavior and how to reward behavior, as well as a few other things.
I had the idea to use marble jars for the children, that every time they did something that I wanted to reward them for, I'd add a marble to their jar, and if I needed to discipline misbehavior, I'd take a marble out of the jar. Since I wanted it to be more of a team effort, I decided to make a jar for my sons and a jar for my daughters. I asked them what they wanted to earn by filling up their marble jars, and my sons asked for me to take them to a restaurant, and my daughters asked for me to take them out to ice cream.
I told them that in order to get marbles, they had to do what I asked. Things like cleaning their room, tidying up, separating laundry, going to sleep without complaining, getting ready for school on time without making a fuss, etc. But unlike a sticker chart, when the kids misbehave, I am able to threaten that if the misbehavior continues, I will take out a marble or two from the jar. I haven't had to do that too many times -- usually just the threat is enough to get the bad behavior to stop -- and the few times that I have taken away marbles, they corrected their misbehavior and were able to earn back the marble that they lost.

I do want to add that I also believe in natural consequences that are relevant, so I don't only discipline by taking away marbles. When two children, who will not be named, used scissors to cut the wire for the computer mouse, their consequence has been being banned from scissor use for a set length of time, and also not being able to use the computer because they destroyed the mouse. The marbles are more for when it's things that it's harder for me to give a natural consequence for.

Additionally, I have one kid home this year, being homeschooled. There are a few things he needs to do for his schooling that he finds challenging, so I have another marble jar just for him, that he's able to earn things during the school day while his siblings are in school, and he hasn't decided yet what he's working towards. I suggested that maybe he can work towards going out to bowling, to a movie, or to ice cream, but he hasn't decided yet, but is still happy to work towards filling the jars.

I don't know why, but these marble jars have finally been working for me when nothing else has. Even though theoretically they aren't that different from a sticker chart. The kids love watching their jars fill up, and come up with ideas of things they can do to earn more marbles.

I personally like this because the reward is something that is taking a while to reach, but the kids are still motivated to do it, so it doesn't cost so much money, because the reward is infrequent. And I like that, although both sets of kids are working for something food related, it is actually the experience they are excited for, more than the food.

Because the girls share a jar and my boys share a jar, there's the additional aspect of motivation, each kid trying to encourage the other to behave because they don't want to lose marbles and they want to get as many as possible.

I just wanted to share this idea with you, hopefully it can benefit you as well.

What do you use to motivate and discipline your children in your home? If you reward, how do the rewards work? If you discipline, what type of discipline do you do? Do you find that works for you? Does this marble jar idea seem like something you'd try out?


  1. I think your ideas are well thought out, well motivated and show the real insight you have of your children.

  2. Genius! I really like this. One time long ago, two of our daughters were sharing a room. I could not get them to turn the light off when they left the room. I took a piece of construction paper and taped a number of quarters to it. I told the girls that every time I passed their room and the lights were on and they were not in there, I would take a quart off the paper, and that at the end of the month, they could divide what was left. I think I only had to take one or two. Not only did it work, but I no longer had to nag them about it. :)

  3. I love this! Could possibly work in kindergarten too (depends on the kids and age though)

  4. The sharing part is genius! So much of misbehaviour has a peer pressure element to it (egging each other on), and you've harnessed that same energy to work towards the good. Brilliant!


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