I like sports. I like kids. I love my kids. But sometimes, I find myself being extreme in how I parent and handle the situation. Most times I know better, I just lose control, and usually that ends up in me screaming at them, shoving them both into timeouts and not getting anything accomplished that I plan to. I get mad at myself every time I do it, but sometimes I just need that release (and to show them that they can’t just get away with everything). I will admit, the screaming has become less of a norm, especially since we started the “Star Jar.”
What? The Star Jar, you ask? Yes! It’s a reward system where the boys get a star when they do something nice or good that they are not already supposed to be doing. For example, if Brayden falls and Zack goes over to help him up (all on his own), Zack would earn a star. If Brayden went and got Zack’s water bottle for him, without Zack having to ask, Brayden would earn a star. If Zack brings his plate to the counter after dinner, well, that’s something he’s already supposed to be doing, so no star for that. You never take stars away, they only earn them. Once they’ve earned enough stars, they can turn them in for something special. For us, that’s like watching a movie or getting a toy back that was previously confiscated. I started it a few weeks ago (thanks to my best friend who told me about it, and after I had called her in desparation from screaming at my kids all day long). It took a while for us to get into the routine of it, and I’ll admit sometimes I am not as strict about turning in stars as I should be, but when we follow the system, it seems to have a positive effect (on all of us).
Want to know what the Star Jars look like and how we did it? (I’ll post a picture of them in the comments when I get home) I went to Michael’s and found two square, plastic jars with lids that are easy for the boys to take off and put on themselves (Brayden still needs a little help to get it back on straight – but Zack likes to help him, so that’s good reinforcement of doing something nice). I then found a pack of wooden stars, in various sizes. We decorated the jars with stickers, adding each of their names to each of their jars. Zack’s has animals all over it and Brayden’s has motorcycles and vehicles. Because we have three different size stars, each size is worth different points. Small is 1 point, medium is 3 points, and large is 5 points. I haven’t established a consistent point system for how much rewards are worth, but I probably should so that anyone can “play” the Star Jar reward system.
This morning, both boys earned a star for playing nicely and quietly together while I was trying really hard to wake myself up to get out of bed. Usually my husband gets up in the morning with the boys, but he had an early meeting so I was “on duty” starting at 6:30am, when I heard Zack get up. At 6:37am, Zack comes into my room asking me to get up. Brayden was not yet awake – still asleep in his crib, and I really wanted to stay in bed until 7:00am. I told Zack to go get a few toys and climb into bed with me. That lasted a very short while, until we both heard Brayden babbling to himself. Zack went and got a couple toys for Brayden to play with in his crib, while I pried my eyes open. It was 7:03am when I finally got out of bed, and it was a pleasant awakening – with none of the usual screaming, yelling and crying that I awake to. Needless to say, they both earned a star.
My next task is to write out a chart of rewards and the associated points. I think if they can see the chart, it might help them each want to earn more stars. I am also trying really hard not to scream at them anymore, and just be calm and direct. If I ask them to do something and they don’t listen, they get something taken away (usually it’s the toy they’re playing with that they don’t want to put down to do the thing I am asking them to do). I’ve decided I give too many warnings and too many chances, and not enough action. I mean, I’m in charge, right?
Parenting doesn’t have to be extreme, in fact, it should be balanced. There should be a balance between discipline and rewards, between boundaries and freedom, and of course full happiness. We’re working on it every day.