Discipline can be very tricky with kiddos. Well, I guess it may not be for some people. Some of you may have methods that work all the time. Some of you may have tried many different discipline options (like me). Some of you opt for the spanking, while others may choose a nice chat about why a specific incident was not the best idea. Whatever your method may be, it’s your own, you make it work, no judgements by me.
I’ve mentioned our gem jar several times and I’ve had a bunch of questions about it, so, I decided to answer those in this format so it’s accessible to anyone who wants it and I only have to type it out once – bonus for me!
So, about last spring I was having a difficult time with Drew – not horrible, just frustrating. I felt like I was constantly harping on the things he was doing wrong and I can’t stand that. I don’t like to do it to him and I don’t like myself when we get to those points. I knew something had to change, to focus on more positive things. We’ve tried time outs (which we still use when necessary) and sticker charts (but those are difficult because if the behavior isn’t changing, you can’t take those suckers off the paper). So, we needed something new.
I came across this blog post from a blog that I’ve followed for a while. It’s called teach mama and it is FANTASTIC! She focuses on teaching your children through playing and many activities to help work on all sorts of different skills – the kids don’t even realize they are learning, which makes ideas/lessons stick better. On top of all that, she provides the resources for FREE!!!! I make many resources on my own, but it can be very time consuming. This fabulous woman has uploaded a ton of them for us to print out and make our own.
Anyway, I came across this post talking about gem jars, and I loved it! I followed the idea very closely with a few changes that suit us.
Here is our gem jar and what I do below. Feel free to add it to your routine and adjust it to your child’s needs. And please ignore my paper towel roll that is obviously a little crooked! The screw is loose, I just haven’t fixed it yet.
I went to Michael’s and bought a bag of the colorful marbles, the clear plastic diamond-like gems, and the vase. While Drew was in quiet time I set out all of my materials in the living room, but covered them up so he couldn’t see what they were (too distracting, when I needed to talk to him, but I needed them to be close by and ready) and two large pieces of paper with a marker.
When he came downstairs I told him that we were going to start a new reward system that would focus on all the GREAT things he does and all of his WONDERFUL behavior. I told him that I loved when he showed me those things and I wanted to give him a reward for doing it.
I brought out a box that was closed and told him that this box was full of gems and diamonds and asked if he wanted to see them. He quickly nodded and I handed the box to him so that he could touch and play with them for a moment. I knew if I just pulled them out and started talking he’d be way too distracted and he’d focus on wanting to touch them instead of listening to me. After a moment I pulled the box away and we were ready to go.
I told him that whenever I saw him doing great things and behaving well, he would be able to earn gems for his jar. Oh, the jar was just a vase and I put stickers on it for his name. We lost the “W” a while back and he recently made this one for me to stick on in its place.
Ok, so then we got down to how to earn gems. I held the marker and the paper and asked him what he could he do to earn gems. We came up with a list that included: Doing what mommy asks the first time she asks, Putting clothes away, Feeding the dog, Using good manners, etc., etc. It wasn’t a super long list, but focused on some of the behaviors we needed to work on. Then I told him about the diamonds. The diamonds are extra special. They are worth a lot more, so to get a diamond you have to do something extra – helping others, doing more than you were asked, doing something positive without being asked, etc. He was getting really excited and part of that is explaining our new reward system in an animated way. If you turn it into another lecture full of lists and diagrams, you’re going to lose them after they’re done touching the gems.
After that we talked about ways to lose gems – showing poor behavior, getting sent to time out, bad manners, etc. Then we practiced! We made it into a game. I created little scenarios good and bad and gave gems and took them away to show how it would work. After everything was said and done, I thanked him for listening so nicely while I explained the gem jars. I thanked him for using good manners and not interrupting me, then I added 3 gems to his jar.
Our prizes vary, but we always have two. He gets a prize for filling his gem jar halfway – up to his name, then again at the top. We dump it out then and start all over, seeing if we can fill it up faster each time. The prizes I offer are things like, a trip to Monkey Joe’s, frozen yogurt, a new book, new coloring book, sometimes a toy, etc. I try to stay away from candy and watching TV/movies too much, but occasionally a full jar will earn him a movie or something.
So, that’s it. A new tactic is that I will now make him take the gems out himself when he’s done something he shouldn’t, I think it hits home a little more than me taking them out. Also, it didn’t work immediately. It took about a week for him to figure out that this was worth doing and even more so after the first prize. Like with any discipline method, you need to be consistent for it to work.
Good luck, and let me know if you try it out!