Is it March already? Really? I'm pretty sure I just packed up my Christmas decorations!
I haven't been blogging for a few reasons, I've been busy with life, my life is boring (hence nothing to write about unless you want a run-down of my mom-taxi itinerary for the day), and.....well......one other thing.
We've turned into the Grumpy Family.
Has this ever happened to your family? You start to slip into bad patterns of speaking to each other? The kids spend the day tattling, name-calling, complaining, arguing, yelling at each other, having temper tantrums, and generally acting completely selfish. Then, the parents who are at their wits end (as if that is any excuse), spend their days cajoling, bribing, nagging and yelling, and then spend their nights crying, discussing, and alleviating some stress with some Ben and Jerry's Smores ice cream (you know, hypothetically speaking).
It took one really bad day- full of temper tantrums, talking-back, arguing, and really lousy attitudes- and one really delicious (hypothetical) pint of Ben and Jerry's Smores ice cream for us to decide that enough was enough. We are NOT interested in being this family, and we can make some changes.
I wish it had a flashy name.
But, it doesn't. We just call them our marble jars.
I took a very simple motivational tool from my teacher days (the class marble jar), bumped it up a notch, individualized it and viola........we're on the road to treating people the way God would like us to treat them (and how we'd like to be treated as well).
It cost me a little to get these cheap candle jars and the scrapbook sticker letters for their names, but it was worth every penny (I had the marbles).
Scot and I discussed the things that really needed to improve around here: kindness, respect, and obedience being at the top of the list. Our church uses a curriculum that focuses on one virtue each month, so we decided that we would also try to develop that trait in our kids monthly. So, each of these character qualities has it's own small jar of marbles.
Obedience, respect, and kindness will remain for a LONG time. So, I printed their definitions on sticker paper and stuck them to the glass. (I included a definition for each as well, but since kindness and respect had definitions that were very similar, I used a Bible verse for kindness instead.)
"Conviction" is the virtue for this month, so we just stuck that one on with tape. It will be replaced next month with a new virtue (hope).
The premise is simple: if you do things that are kind, respectful, and obedient, mom and dad will tell you to take a marble from the corresponding jar and put it into your marble jar. If you are unkind, disrespectful, or disobedient (including having to be asked several times to do something), you will be asked to remove a marble from your marble jar, and return it to the jar that corresponds to the trait you were having trouble with.
When the jar with your name on it has marbles high enough to go over the line, you earn a privilege or reward of your choosing (from a list that was mutually brainstormed and agreed upon at our Family Meeting). Some examples include a night out with mom or dad, a small toy, dinner of your choice, etc. Each child chose a reward to work towards, and (at Sawyer's insistence) picked a particular virtue they needed the most improvement on so they could focus on improving in that area. To my dismay, Chloe chose to focus on "conviction". That girl has enough conviction to last her a lifetime. She could work on being a bit less willing to take a stand and more willing to obey, in my humble opinion. But, since I give out the marbles, I'm not too concerned. It's sort of my ace in the hole.
Sure, this is complete behavior modification. They are not currently exemplifying these behaviors because they know that they are right, they are doing it to earn marbles. (But previously they weren't exemplifying the behaviors at all, so it's a win for me!) However, in theory, this will draw their attention to the negative behaviors and attitudes, and motivate them to use the traits to earn marbles thereby reinforcing good behavior and (hopefully) creating new habits.
Today was Day 1.
And it went VERY well. Seriously, I think I got new kids.
They were bending backwards trying to help each other (prompting a suggestion of a jar for "helpfulness"), I only had to ask once and they were off to do what I asked, and they suddenly were SUPER focused on having a good attitude and going above-and-beyond to do what is right because they want to get a marble.
This mom wasn't too concerned about their motivation. My sanity got a BIG boost today.
One word: WINNING.
And, with a little intentionality and laser focus on making better choices, these things will become habit. I'm sure of it.
My favorite part of today is that I was upstairs for a bit when I heard Sawyer get really frustrated with Chloe. In the end, he totally yelled at her.
I didn't say anything.
A little bit later, I gave him a marble for being kind to Chloe. When I did, he said, "Ok, but a little while ago I yelled at Chloe, so I think I need to also take out a marble to put back in the 'respect' jar."
Ahhhhhhhh, now that is progress. I've got them consciously thinking about and focusing on their behavior. It's just a matter of time now.
As an added benefit, it has completely stopped a couple of Cooper's temper tantrums before they actually started when he obeyed, and I awarded him a marble just as he was about to throw himself down, stomp, cry and completely lose it. Of course, when he screamed at Chloe and had to take a marble out, he made up for it with a nice big meltdown, but hey, you can't win them all. (As a side note: I'm reevaluating whether or not he's mature enough to handle this or not. He'll hate not being included, and he TOTALLY understands the concept- when he calmed down tonight, he was able to explain exactly why he didn't get a marble. However, emotionally, he may not be able to handle the whole "take a marble out" thing. I may have to make some modifications for him- maybe that I'll correct him and tell him he won't get a marble, but not actually have him take one out. Then, I can just take one out when he doesn't notice. I don't know.)
I know that this is a phase. We've been through it before, and truth be told, it's a short phase. When we've corrected it before, the kids remember how we want to be as a family, and things get better. We just let it go too far this time, and we needed a more formal reminder.
I'm encouraged when I remember what someone once said (and this is bad paraphrase): you aren't a bad parent if you make mistakes. You are a bad parent if you see those mistakes, but do nothing to fix them.
We make a whole lot of mistakes, but we are not afraid to put our family on an improvement plan so that our family, as a whole and as individuals, can be a reflection of God's character and used for His glory.