Creative Discipline 103: The Button Jar

So, after reading all those great books and setting out some good rules with varying levels of success, nothing seemed to work with the very different personalities of my two oldest children (now 6 and 3 1/2) until we stumbled upon the button jar. This is the crux of discipline in our house.

The idea is simple. Fill a jar with many of something (I liked the buttons since I could buy a big bag of pretty, colorful ones at Hobby Lobby for a few bucks, but marbles, coins, popsicle sticks, anything small will work) and provide an empty cup or jar for each child. Set out the rules, then put a button in their cup whey you think they deserve it and remove one when they don't live up to your expectations (or, in the case of our 3 1/2 year old son, defy them outright). When a specific quantity of buttons is reached, a reward is earned. (The reward could be something simple like a trip for ice cream or to the zoo, or a large toy, depending on the motivation that your kid needs and what his/her interests are; the boy is expecting a pirate ship, our daughter would like ice skating).

Clearly, the assignment of buttons is somewhat arbitrary, but we go through periods where one child is being too rough with the baby so they are warned that when they are rough with her they are choosing to lose a button (see? they're in control, reducing the parent-child power struggle and making them accountable for their actions), but when they play nicely and follow the rules for quiet time they get a button. I'll also give out buttons when someone goes out of their way to help a sibling clean up a mess they didn't make, or asks to help empty the dishwasher (these things happen a lot more often since the button jar came along), etc. Failing to follow a rule (e.g. screaming for me from one end of the house or getting up before 6:30) loses a button. I can see this working until at least 12-13 years, although I'm expecting that the payout will be a bit bigger by then!

What do you do to keep your children in line?
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