Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Happiness Jar

And I'm back! We drove TWELVE hours to Colorado to spent an amazing Labor Day weekend with family. It really was so relaxing. On the trip, I started reading Teaching Your Children Joy which was a good reminder of how important and special these toddler/preschooler years are. I really feel like the best thing I can give my kids right now is my T-I-M-E. They say that kids are most impressionable in their first five years, soaking in everything around them, and I'm grateful for this short period of time where I get to be their teacher and example full-time at home. At the same time, that can be intimidating and terrifying! The more parenting books I read, the more I realize that I ultimately have control over one thing: my own behavior. With every chapter I read on teaching my kids self-discipline, honesty, happiness , and self-reliance, the more I realize that I need to live those principles myself so that I can teach them to my kids with more than just words.

One thing we started recently was a "Happiness Jar." We've recently struggled with YELLING in our family so I dug around my storage room until I found a nice, small jar that could potentially be filled one day with hard-earned marbles. If you do something kind for someone else or hold your tongue when tempted to explode, you get a marble. If you behave badly or yell, a marble comes out. Once the jar is filled, we get to do something really exciting as a family (I think the zoo is #1 on our list).

Photobucket(We couldn't find marbles so we're using fish bowl stones)

There's our little jar on our mantle. My wreath is red, not black, I promise. 

So far, it's worked like a charm for all of us. It's been fun including the girls in my own goals to have better self-control. In January, I set up a little "rewards" system for myself if I could make it a certain amount of weeks without yelling in front of my kiddos (time-out is for everyone!). It took me five months to get my first reward! Then I noticed that my system wasn't working as well as I'd hoped (I guess we couldn't afford a nice enough reward).  So I asked my four year old to help me out.

Our code phrase is "Where's the fire?" We decided that it's only okay to YELL when there's a fire, a birthday (woo hoo!) or when you're playing outside. So this phrase is a gentle reminder to lower your voice and maybe take a time-out if needed until you feel better. We also started helping one another keep our cool when feeling frustrated by simply saying, "Choose to be happy." (I really hated that phrase when I suffered a bout of postpartum after my second baby. But now I can take it).

I'm amazed at the power those fishbowl stones have over our girls' behavior. They do NOT like to lose one out of the jar. We make sure to praise them a lot when they earn one and make a big deal about it. Also, when I break one of the rules, I make sure to apologize, even if they deserved it, so they can see that everyone makes mistakes, but amends must be made. Here's one of the best quotes I've ever read about parenting:

"It is unlikely that you will ever be a perfect parent, nor will your children ever be perfect children. 'Losing it' is an ongoing process, which is just one reason to learn the valuable skill of taking some positive time-out as soon as you can catch yourself 'losing it'--sometimes sooner, and sometimes later. We will all continue to make mistakes throughout our lifetimes, even when we know better." Jane Nelson, Ed.D, Author of Positive Discipline Series

What works in your home?

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1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the honest and encouraging words. I have found myself yelling more in my home, as well. Then I hear the girls yelling and using mean voices at each other. It breaks my heart that they learned it from me. We may have to try the jar idea. Great picture of you and the girls by the way!