It all started when my 4-year-old was getting very physical with his older siblings.
We tried different methods to try to correct his behavior, things like timeouts, yelling, screaming,
grounding, nothing seemed to work.
Until we tried a reward system with little tweaks.
It’s called the Jar Rewards System and it is very simple but effective.
How does the Jar Rewards System work?
This reward system works best for kids between 2 and 10 years old.
The main purpose is to correct behaviors in your children by rewarding them.
The system is simple, involves a mason jar and cotton balls (I like using colorful ones).
Every time he has that specific positive behavior or doesn’t show the negative behavior, they get to put a cotton ball inside the jar.
For example, if I want to correct my toddler getting physical with friends. Every time they go a playday and don’t hit anybody they get to put a ball inside the jar.
Or if my 5 years old always forget to brush his teeth in the morning, every time he does it get he gets to put the ball into the mason jar.
When it’s filled, they get to choose an “experience” out of the 10 I previously selected.
The key is customizing rewards and expectations based on your child’s age, personality, and interests.
I will show you how to do that here.
What are some “experience” rewards?
I like to keep my rewards all based on experiences they can choose to do with the family.
Nobody wants their kids to be superficial so we don’t give money or toys as a reward.
By not offering material things, I try to teach my children a valuable lesson about enjoying experiences over things.
It will improve their maturity and expand their knowledge because they have seen different things, been in different places, etc.
Here are some experiences I keep on my rewards list:
- Going to the zoo or aquarium
- Tea Party at home
- Smores in the bonfire
- Bike Riding
- Sleepover in mom/dad’s room with sleeping bags on our floor
- Have a cousin sleepover
- Go out for ice cream
- Go swimming
- Stay up a little later one night to play a game
What behaviors should I expect in the rewards system?
Be simple and clear with your toddlers about their expectations.
For example, an act of kindness might be too broad for your child to understand but if you say helping somebody at the grocery store it becomes a lot clearer.
I would analyze in my kid what behavior needs to form as a habit.
Or what are some behaviors I need to suppress from my child and replace with new ones.
Just remember to keep age-appropriate and realistic for them to achieve.
Here’s a list of common behaviors that can be used in the rewards system:
- Brushing teeth by itself (morning & night)
- Party training (them letting you know they want to go party)
- Not hitting siblings or friends (if they go play and don’t hit they get a reward)
- Screen time (reward if they respect your screen time)
- Eating problems (reward if they eat their veggies or if they only eat one plate for their meal)
- Whining (reward if they stop the whining immediately)
- Telling the truth ( if they tend to lay reward them when they are honest difficult situations)
How to make your reward system to be a success
If your kids are under 5 years old I would try to focus on one behavior, habit at a time.
If you have like 3 behaviors being corrected your child might get lost and even forget about some of them.
It’s much easier for them if the expectations are about 1 thing.
Also, Take the mason jar with you and your child at all times. When going traveling or to the grocery store.
This will help kids as a visual reminder that the jar is getting filled and they have to keep it up to win the prize.
Remember to never bribe or negotiate with your kid about the rewards system.
They will always want to break the rules, for example getting a half prize since the jar is filled halfway.
One time my kid only brushed his teeth at night, the expectations were morning and night.
Mister smarty pants wanted half of a cotton ball for half of the work, mom had to say no.
Kids are smart; they will try to convince you to break the rules. Watch out!
Don’t deviate from the system. If you made rules and expectations follow by. Otherwise, kids will lose interest in the game and you lose confidence in yourself.
The Bottom Line
Try this reward system with your kid, see how it goes.
If it wasn’t what you expected, go ahead and make changes.
Just keep in mind the expectations in this reward system are not age-appropriate chores, these are behaviors you want to add or correct in your child’s life.
In fact, if you want to see what’s expected of your child as far as chores check out our article on Age Appropriate Chores for Kids