Sunday, October 20, 2013

The "Good Job!" Jar

Last Thursday was a 'last-straw' day. My sweet, adorable, caring, and kind three-year-old son had turned into a little monster.

As most three-year-old's do, he really loves his independence. Especially since he knows his little sister can't do half the things he can. He understands video games, knows how to turn Netflix on, he can navigate through the XBOX 360 dashboard with ease, he can go to the fridge to get his snacks, he gets dressed all by himself, and has his own thoughts and opinions. He's still testing his boundaries, of course, and is pushing them as far as they will go... which we found out on Thursday, was saying NO! for the thousandth time.

I had seen a few ideas on Pinterest to help guide a child's behavior. Honestly, I was thinking about making a behavior chart for quite a while, but I just didn't have the time. And after thinking about it, what good would a chart do if he couldn't read it yet? Then I remembered another pin I saw... a jar with cotton balls.

This jar idea seemed like the perfect alternative to a behavior chart, without the necessity to read it.

I went to Target, and bought a $1.50 mason jar, a bag of cotton balls for $1.19, and some scrapbooking stickers for $1 each (I got two packs). I used a sharpie I already had at home. When I got home, I wrote on the jar using the sharpie, then I decorated it with the stickers.

Some people were creating a fill-line as a goal... but cotton balls are a good size when you put them in a regular mason jar. I decided to just go straight for the top as the fill-line.

How it works for us:

For every acceptable* thing he does, he gets to put a cotton ball in the jar. For every unacceptable* thing he does, he gets to take a cotton ball out of the jar. When the jar is full, he gets to do an activity of his choice. He doesn't get a toy or money or anything like that for filling the jar. Thursday morning, his ability to play video games was taken away. He decided that his reward for filling up the jar would be an hour of video game play time. 
(Before you jump on my case for a three-year-old playing video games... he loves his Lego video games, he is great at them, and we still do a LOT of different activities throughout the day. This happens to be his favorite, so that's what I "took away" when he demonstrated the unacceptable behavior.)

At the beginning, I was acknowledging EVERY example of acceptable* behavior with a cotton ball in the jar, and every example of unacceptable* behavior with a cotton ball removed. This way, he learns what is acceptable* and what is not in a way in which he can control it. He is making the decisions himself and is learning what works. Also, by acknowledging every acceptable* behavior, and filling up the jar faster, he can see that his goal is attainable. Eventually, as time goes on, I will start acknowledging extraordinary and exemplary behavior instead of just everything acceptable*.

We started this jar on Thursday afternoon, and Saturday around noon, he got his hour of video game play. Today, he got one more hour.

He already is knowing when he does well and when he doesn't, and is more aware of how his decisions affect him, and us! He doesn't emotionally explode like he used to, and he is a lot quicker to recognize and remedy his poor behavior.

I can't say this is the easiest thing to maintain, because after 3 days, even though he's done well, we still have hiccups. But we are going to "stick to it!" It was, however, very inexpensive, and soooo worth the little peace it's already brought!

I definitely recommend trying this out with your toddler.

If you do, please let me know by commenting below! I'd love to see how your little one's jar turned out, and how it worked for you and your family! You can also post a picture of it on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter, all with: @itslikemusic & #goodjobjar!

*I use "acceptable/unacceptable" because it is a relative term. What may be considered acceptable to me might be considered unacceptable to others. You decide what is acceptable/unacceptable for your family, just as I do with mine. :)

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