Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Positive Discipline Incentive Jars

A little post for the moms {and dads} out there!
I want to share with you our family’s positive discipline approach and how it’s working for us.  I got this idea from a friend who saw it on one of the Nanny shows!  She told me about it a while ago, but honestly I kept holding off until I found just the right jars…I didn’t wanna sacrifice cuteness just for good behavior.  Smile!

Ok, so here are the jars (I got the jars from Ikea and used chalkboard paint for the labels:
Aren’t they cute?!  I painted them with chalkboard paint to give me a place to write each child’s name on them. I’ll post the tutorial soon!
Here are the details….
Each child has a jar that he/she works on filling with these wooden craft balls.
IMG_4087{Let me tell you, the search for the right size jar and balls can be exhausting! Also, the ones below don’t have holes in the middle like the ones above.}

Every time one of my children does something right, they earn a ball {or two or three}. They can earn balls for TONS of things….like:

~putting their shoes away when they walk in the front door
~taking their dishes to the sink/dishwasher
~saying, “Yes, mommy” when I ask them to do something
~doing something the first time I ask
~helping someone
~cleaning up their toys

~getting dressed in the morning
~making their bed
~putting their dirty clothes in the hamper
~eating a meal without bothering the person next to them
~being the first one to offer to have their teeth brushed
~getting buckled in the car before I do
~saying something kind to someone
~behaving nicely in the grocery store

The list goes on and on…they can basically earn a ball for anything I see them do that’s positive.  You can alter it to make it age appropriate, too….so my 3 year olds might earn a ball for bringing their dishes to the sink, but my 6 year old needs to do it without me asking. And it’s really helpful as a reminder to me to give positive praise for all the normal every day activities that they do right. Even a reply as simple as “Sure Mommy” is worthy of praise…isn’t that music to your ears? 

We need to tell our kids what they are doing right so  they’ll know which behaviors to repeat. 

I find that sometimes I get into a rut of only telling my kids what they are doing wrong. But with this method, I am always telling them what they are doing right.  And who doesn’t like to hear they are doing things right? Even if it’s that you remembered to flush.
Hey, celebrate when you can!

So they earn balls for doing things right.  The balls go into their jars and when their jar is full, they earn a reward.  It usually takes 2-3 days to fill their jar {that’s around 25 balls}.  The reward is agreed upon ahead of time and can be just about anything! For my 3 year old daughters, they are happy with the promise of a bubble bath…or getting to take a shower with mommy…or a trip to the park with daddy…or being the one to pick out any dessert from the TJ’s freezer case…or a movie night, etc.  My 6 year old earns computer/TV/video game minutes when he fills his jar.  Each time he fills his jar he earns 2 hours of screen time: 1 1/2 hours can be TV or computer games and 1/2 hour can be video games.  With this system, my goal is for him to average no more than a half hour a day…and for the most part it works out that way.  Oh and all the minutes are roll-over minutes…so he can save up to watch an extra long movie {teaching him to save and not always go for instant gratification.}

I know other families who use this system successfully with cash as the reward.  Their 4 year old is happy with any amount and is just thrilled to have money. Their 6 year old can blow it spend it right away on silly bands, or save up his money to buy, say, a big Lego set and, again is learning to save and not settle for instant gratification.

And honestly, the younger kids are just happy earning balls.  The reward is really not so important.  It just feels good to be told all day the things you are doing right.  So this system not only works well for the kids, it works well for me…
it keeps me pointing out all the positive in my kids,
even on the tough days!

You know me, I love a party!
iheartnaptimebuttonsundayscoop DIY_Blog_button


  1. CUTE jars. Glad you've got them done!

  2. I love this idea. I think I may take it a step farther and be able to take away balls as well as give them. My boys are having a hard time with saying bad/rude words. Wish me luck! Thanks for sharing!


  3. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!! :)

  4. mavis E. ButterfieldMarch 10, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    a friend of mine has been doing this with their 10 year old daughter for years, only they use quarters. direct reward. girlfriend has saved up $500 over the last 6-7 years! talk about put your money where your mouth is! now she has a baby sister. . .every diaper change, that's another quarter. sweet!

  5. What a lovely idea, thanks for sharing.

  6. Found you from tatertots and jello. new follower. I was at world market yesterday and looking at their glasses with the chalkboard paint and want to do it for glasses. Maybe if my kids's names are on the glass we won't need to wash 8 cajillion glasses this summer!
    new follower.. would love a visit back,

    p.s. i just bought red chalkboard paint last night... i'm going to try it on my stash of "potential project jars"


  7. we fill ours with money. each day they are good, they get a quarter. each day they are bad, they get one taken away. there have been weeks when they have owed us money!

  8. Nevermind...I see you added it to the end of this post. Thanks.

  9. Such a good idea! I have been looking for jars just like these. Can you tell me where you found them?


  10. Thank you everyone for your sweet comments! And thanks to my newest followers. :-) I'll do my best not to disappoint!!

  11. The jars are super cute, especially with the lids. Where did you find them?

  12. Thanks for all your sweet comments! A few people have asked where I got the jars with lids: Ikea!

  13. Love this, thank you for sharing! I got my jars yesterday and going for the balls tomorrow. Question...how do you handle the ball-giving while you are out and about? Promising a ball (or more) and they get it in the jar when they get home? Also, if they say "sure, mom!" and do the task, do you reward them after saying "sure mom" and interrupt task at hand (but provide instant reinforcement) or after they complete the task? I'm sorry for the questions...we had a hard weekend and need to get back on track with the positive reinforcement, it DOES work!

  14. Hi Adrian! So happy you are going to try the jars! Great questions you asked.
    ~When you are out and about you can put little stars with a ball point pen on their hands for each ball they earn...or even a tally mark
    ~When they say "sure mom" I go pop a ball into their jar, while they begin the task. They do not have to be physically given the ball and put it in the jar themselves.....they hear me drop it in as they are working on the task.
    ~I think instant reinforcement is good in the beginning, especially when you are trying to change habits.

    Good Luck and let me know how it goes for you!!

  15. Thanks for your input! We have done it for 2 days now and while we need to work out our kinks, but I see the light :) I am so excited, thank you for sharing this!!

  16. Hi--I made my own rendition of your incentive jar idea with the wooden balls....today is day 1 and the kids so far are enjoying the idea. Here's some pixs from my blog and I made sure to link back to you.


  17. I love the positive reinforcement! It's so easy to get bogged down in what the children aren't doing right and this is such a good way to praise the good. I do find by rewarding my girls who have done the right thing takes the focus off the bad, so the one not complying is ignored in a way and no one wants to be ignored!

  18. ok.. so what if the child does not do as their are told? or does not do what they are supposed to? Do you take the balls away? If so, how many and do you keep taking them away till its done? or do you incorporate a time out etc? Please expand on this.

  19. Good question Kelly! I absolutely take balls away for poor behavior. They are so bummed to lose balls. My son says, "I work so hard to earn balls and then to have you just take one away makes me so mad" But I also incorporate "time outs". Usually this is time spent alone, in another room, because you aren't treating people kindly. So you cannot be with other people when you are not treating them with respect. Therefore you need to be alone. They can read, play, draw, whatever in their "time out" but the point is they are alone. Which for my kids is a big disappointment.


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