As with most new things you introduce to your child, grasping the concept of the discipline jars took about 1-2 weeks.
When we made the jars, each child and I talked about some things he was having trouble with. (See post “Discipline Jars – Part 2: Making the jars”) For instance, Dylan was a hitter. So we wrote that item on the ‘Naughty’ behavior list hand cut-out. Both boys had “no yelling” written on their lists. Since we had previously discussed these items (and they helped make their lists), there were no surprises of what the naughty behaviors were.
When we made the jars, I explained to the boys why we were making the jars… “mommy doesn’t like yelling or spanking you when you do something you’re not supposed to do. We are going to use these jars to help us learn how to be nicer to each other and help you listen so you don’t get in trouble.” Then I explained what would happen if they did one of the items listed on the back of their naughty behavior hand. It is important you take time and explain to your child the new process. It will take several times of repeating and a few times of actually following through on it for them to fully understand what to expect.
At first, the boys thought it was fun to pick out a pretty pebble and hear the clink as it dropped into the empty ‘Naughty’ jar. I would have to remind them, “This is not a game. You are losing a pebble because you chose not to listen to Mommy.” Slowly their anxious little smiles began to melt away and I could tell the concept was sinking in.
Implementing our discipline jars:
(Each naughty behavior is treated independently. So the following process is only done if that single particular offense is repeated.)
First Time of the Misbehavior: I ask the child to stop the behavior, tell them why it is not okay, and let them know if it happens again they will lose a pebble.
Second Time: The child and I immediately go to the pebble jars. Kneeling to be eye level with the child, I read both the ‘Good’ behavior list and the ‘Naughty’ behavior list we had written on the back of their hand cut-outs. Then we talk about the current misbehavior and discuss why the child is losing this pebble. The child takes out the pebble and tells me why he is losing it (…“for hitting Connor.”)
Our middle child was only speaking in 2-3 word phrases when we started this process so in this instance when I asked him why he was losing a pebble, his response would be “hitting”. Having the child tell me why he was losing the pebble, helped with remembering our new rules and also was teaching honesty.
Third Time: I followed the same procedure as described for the second time misbehaving. Plus, the child now sits in time out for a set number of minutes. (A good rule of thumb: the amount of time a child sits in time out should be equivalent to their age. A 3-year old would sit in timeout for 3 minutes.)
Since no child likes time outs, tears are not uncommon at this point. I allow the child a minute to cry and then explain that as soon as he is quiet and stops crying, mommy will start the timer.
Fourth Time: The same procedure as described for the second time misbehaving. Our little offender then gets a swat and sat in time out. (Yes, folks, we still spank in this house, but as a very last resort. Please make sure that if you choose to spank, that it is not done in anger.)
Things to Consider:
- Misbehaviors are a good opportunity to review the rules. I use this time to review both the ‘Good’ and the ‘Naughty’ behavior lists, placing special emphasis on the ‘Good’ list. I don’t want the naughty behaviors to get the spotlight so I tell the boys, “You are a good little boy and I don’t want you to have to lose pebbles. I want you to be able to do <insert the week’s reward> with us after church on Sunday.” Keep the child focused on the positive and on the reward, not on the bad behavior.
- We found it was necessary to take the child to the Discipline Jar as soon as the misbehavior occurred so it was fresh in their mind.
- Some behaviors may not warrant a warning at all, but need to result in a pebble being taken away from the beginning. Those items for us are: hitting, kicking, or any deliberate unkind physical contact.
- Since our boys are nappers, our day is broken into two halves. If the child continues to repeat the same ‘Naughty’ behavior more than four times, we would continue doing the Fourth Time discipline process that morning. However, when the boys wake up from their naps they get a new beginning and we start back over with the First Time Misbehavior/Warning. If your child doesn’t nap, you may need to consider if you are going to follow the process over the course of a day or if you are going to reset after lunch.
- Leaving the house can be a challenge. The Discipline Jars are too cumbersome to lug around (plus ours don’t have lids). I still implement loosing pebbles when we are out and about. It is not as effective without the visual of actually moving the pebble from the ‘Good’ jar to the ‘Naughty’ jar. But we do keep track and take care of the pebbles as soon as we get home. Unfortunately, some behaviors require more action than just verbally telling the child he will lose a pebble when we get home. My go-tos in this instance are:
- Giving a pep talk in the car to remind the boys we need to be nice in here, especially if one of them is already having a rough day. Let them know in advance what your expectations are. If we are going to the grocery I may have to remind the boys they need to keep their hands off each other and to hold on to the cart. If we are going to a playdate, I may need to remind them of our sharing rule (“If you can’t share, you can’t play.”) I then tell the boys, “I don’t want you to lose any pebbles for doing something naughty in here. Do you remember what we get to do this weekend if we don’t lose too many pebbles?”
- If the pep talk and verbally taking away a pebble doesn’t work, I may have to resort to taking the child somewhere private where we have a more strict talk. Humiliating the child in public is never a positive thing for you or them. Taking him somewhere that he and I can have an eye-to-eye one-on-one talk is always best.
Friends, please remember that discipline is a process. As much as we may want them to, our kids aren’t going to remember all the dos and don’ts right away. And even when they do remember, they are emotional little people trying to figure out this big world and their place in it. They will continue to act out. They will test us. It is our job to teach them right from wrong as lovingly as possible. So give it some time.
I absolutely don’t have all the answers, but this system works well for us. For all of us… even me, who could still use discipline at times.
Keep watching for Discipline Jars — Part 4: how they affected our family
See the whole Discipline Jars series: