I'm back! I was really on a roll with my blog posts lately. Then my youngest daughter decided NOT to listen and ate her Reese's peanut butter egg in the living room and drooled chocolatey peanut buttery saliva all over our keyboard and shorted out the letters "K" "L" and the comma. Needless to say, I can't really post without using those letters and it's too tough to compose on my iphone. We ordered a new keyboard for the laptop and I installed it yesterday afternoon. Easy Peasy. Which leads me to today's post on a parenting idea.
Many of you know my kids are preschool aged. My oldest is 4-1/2 and my youngest is almost 3. They're smart girls and generally good kids. They have their moments, though. One of the difficult things for me as a parent is blatant disregard for instruction. You all know what I'm describing. You ask your child to pick up a toy. Child ignores you. You ask again. Child ignores again. You tell the child to pick it up. Child continues to ignore you. This continues until either A-you pick up the stupid toy yourself or B-you raise your voice, scold the child for not doing the task AND not listening, and perhaps administer a consequence meanwhile the toy is still sitting on the floor where it doesn't belong. I'm not the only one, right? My problem was this: I don't enjoy harping on my girls. I don't enjoy scolding them. I don't enjoy yelling at them. I became frustrated when they chose not to listen. I needed a behavior modification technique that would be understood by young children, could be used for positive or negative reinforcement, was easy enough that my husband would use as well, and taught the correct behavior I was trying to achieve.
My solution was a set of reward and consequence jars. First, because my kids are craft-crazy, we took some upcycled pizza sauce jars, made labels and mod-podged the labels on the jars. Each child had a jar and mom and dad had a jar to share. I cut the labels so they did not go all the way around the jar. I wanted to be able to see the contents from one side (more on this in a minute). I placed 50 pennies in each of the kids' jars and an assortment of pennies, nickels and dimes in mom and dad's jar. If your kids are older, pennies might not work as well, you may have to start with nickels or dimes or even quarters, but the concept is the same.
I used them like this: if the girls were asked to do something (clean their room, pick up toys, brush teeth, put clothes in laundry basket, etc) and did not do it, they were asked a second time (just to ensure it was not a hearing issue but a will issue) and still didn't do it, a coin was moved from their personal jar to mom and dad's jar. Being able to SEE the coin moved from jar to jar and seeing the coins pile up in mom and dad's jar instead of theirs is key. Everytime during the week the girls demonstrated an instance of not listening, a coin was removed. BUT if the girls did an extra chore, showed extra care or sharing, or had an above and beyond good attitude, they were rewarded by receiving a coin or coins in their jar. I try to reward with nickels and dimes and consequence with pennies. Again, seeing the coins move into their jar is key to reinforcing the behaviors. At the end of the week, the money left in each child's jar was removed and they could put it in their piggy bank. I would fill again with 50 pennies and the week starts over.
I had to explain the jars to the kids when we started and at the end of the week when we counted the money. I also made sure to explain the jars when I took coins out during that first week. I wanted my child to see me remove or replace the money in her jar. The first week was difficult, too. My girls had coins removed every day. I quickly saw some behavioral changes as well. Now, I can say, "Do you want to lose money?" or "I'm going to take money from your jar." and they know to change behaviors and/or follow directions.
The unintended consequence of this method has been the kids asking if a certain chore will get them money. I believe there are some chores which should be done regularly, without pay, because you're part of a family and that means working together to maintain the home. My oldest tries to get "paid" for some of these types of chores. I use it as a learning exercise to show that mom or dad doesn't get paid to clean or do laundry but it still has to be done. It's a small consequence I will accept in return for the better behavior.
I've been pleased at the results I've seen with the girls. I feel it's helped me be a better parent because the situations don't escalate. The jars hold both positive and negative behaviors and are easily administered. My husband follows through as well. We don't do allowances, so this lets the girls earn money for saving. It's also a learning activity too! My youngest can learn counting out objects and sorting (I usually ask for piles of 5) and then we can count by 5s as well. My oldest is learning about coin values so she understands 1 dime = 2 nickels = 10 pennies. Both girls love counting their money at the end of the week.
I hope this gives you ideas on alternative techniques to change the behaviors in your own homes. Let me know what you're doing, what is successful for you and your kids, what you've tried that wasn't successful. We have to learn from each other!!