I apologize for not adding part 4 immediately after publishing the other 3. Truth is, it seems every time I’d go to hit publish on this post, we’d be in the middle of a rough day or week and I’d question myself and my credentials on this topic. Who am I kidding… there are always going to be bad days and rough patches. But it’s all about consistency and how we are working through the process. So here goes…
I don’t think words can actually do justice to the calming affect the Discipline Jars have had on our entire family. They calmed the whole house down. The helped calm me down. They calmed the boys down. Please don’t get me wrong, our house is not a temple of serenity. However, we are a happier home with better communication and a much more loving atmosphere.
Plus, we now have a fun family activity planned for the end of each week as our reward.
How the jars have helped me:
My previous discipline tactic, threatening to spank the boys after every misbehavior (no matter how big or small the offense), was a very poor choice on my behalf and often created much more stress in our home. I didn’t really want to spank the boys and I often didn’t follow through on it… what parent wants to spank their kids? But the threat of spanking (or the swat itself) was a quick and easy go to verses sitting down and working through the issue that actually needed to be addressed. It almost immediately resulted in crying and pleading, “No! I don’t want to be spanked!” which led to further meltdowns on both their behalf and mine. My anger and irritation level would rise, I’d yell more, and they’d cry more. There is no sugar-coating the fact that it was just bad.
In addition to using the jars to discipline the boys, I used it to discipline myself. It was shameful how many pebbles I lost, especially during those first few weeks. Here I am, their mother who is supposed to be calm, loving, supportive, and nurturing. Instead I was running the house like a drill sergeant barking at new recruits. I wish I could say that there has been a complete transformation, but at least now I can sense these times sooner and can refocus myself toward being a better mom, a better person (and wife).
It was very humbling to lose pebbles in front of the boys. I hold myself to the same level of accountability I expect from them. I tell them, “Boys, Mommy needs to lose a pebble.” I tell them what I did naughty and I apologize. Then I move that treasured pebble and listen to the heart-wrenching clink as it hits the glass in the bottom of the ‘Naughty’ jar.
Using the Discipline Jars makes me feel like a better mom. Rather than losing it and yelling at the boys, I have to remember that my words and actions are a choice… and they are watching me. How will I respond? Too many times I have seen my poor reactions played out in front of me through my boys. And it breaks my heart. So instead of reacting out of irritation and anger, I have to close my eyes or pause for a few seconds to regroup myself. It’s during these moments that I am reminded of the extreme amount of grace that has been given to me by God, by Brad, and my boys. And I want to respond with that same kind of grace and love. I am now trying to use misbehavior as an opportunity to teach our boys right from wrong, to teach them kindness, and to show them compassion.
I am still a less-than-perfect mom. I still yell. I still spank (after we have gone through the other steps of our discipline system — see Discipline Jars — Part 3: implementing our new system), but my stress level is lower and I feel like I’ve been able to take back over the outrage of emotion.
I am a work in progress and I am working on building both their character and mine.
How the jars have helped Brad:
Using the Discipline Jars have made Brad more likely to discipline the boys. And better yet, they have put us on the same page in parenting. Having consistent parenting lets the boys know that they can expect the same discipline from both of us. There aren’t two sets of rules to remember or follow. Most importantly, having consistent parenting has decreased parenting tension between Brad and I. Brad still tends to be more lenient and give extra warnings, however, his next step is the same. And, the jars hold us both accountable. He sometimes has to remind me that rather than getting mad, I need to defer to the jars. Likewise, rather than giving more warnings and watching Brad’s irritation level rise, I remind him that he has already warned the boys and needs to move on to the next step of the Discipline Jars if he actually wants the behavior to end.
When I asked Brad his feelings on the Discipline Jars, besides reaffirming how much calmer our house has become, he said, “I think they have really helped you to react calmer to the boys. Which helps us all.”
He also added, “I don’t feel hypocritical for telling the boys not to hit each other when they get mad since we were previously responding with spanking. I didn’t like that it showed them their hitting would be resolved by hitting. This is much better.”
How the boys have responded:
The boys have taken to the jars fairly well. For the first 2-3 weeks, they found the pebbles “fun”. Once they realized they were losing pebbles as a punishment though, the little smiles faded. It’s still a form of discipline and honestly, who likes to be disciplined? So it’s not surprising that there have been many crying and foot stomping moments with a rebellious. “I hate losing pebbles.” But when we can calm down and talk, the boys do come around and remember our pebble jars are a better solution.
In wanting to get Connor’s perspective to share with you, one night as I lay in his bed to tuck him I told him, “Connor, this week we need to get back on track with our pebbles. Mommy yelled a lot last week and I don’t like that.”
“Yah, and I don’t like being spanked. I want to put pebbles in the jar, not get spanked.” He told me.
“I know, baby. I’m sorry. I don’t like spanking you either. It’s better when we use the pebbles, isn’t it?”
“It’s hard to remember the rules. I don’t remember what I am not supposed to do.” He confessed.
“That’s why we have the Naughty list written down and we talk about it. Plus, mommy always gives you a warning first. When mommy asks you not to do something, you need to listen and obey. It’s when you don’t listen and mommy has to ask you again that you start getting in trouble and losing pebbles. Right?”
“Right,” he said with a big head nod.
Truth is, the boys do know what is expected of them. They have learned what our house rules are and are learning how to treat each other with kindness. They are learning actions are a choice and we can choose to how to behave. (i.e. not hitting even if someone hits us first, or not being mean if someone takes our toy, etc.) After the boys are given a warning, I will sometimes remind them (depending on the behavior), that they can choose to continue the naughty behavior and start losing pebbles or they can choose to be nice so they can <insert current activity or remind them of the week’s reward>. It’s that heat-of-the-moment he-took-my-toy reactive kind of behavior that typically gets a pebble taken away. We use these times to try and slow down and think through a better solution.
The boys have grown so much through our Discipline Jars. Only twice has a child not been able to participate in the week’s reward. We try to focus on learning from our mistakes and moving forward with kind actions and good choices.
Although some days feel like total chaos, I am extremely proud of how well behaved they are overall and how many compliments we get about their behavior.
Tips I’ve gathered while working through the Discipline Jars:
- Consistency is key. There have been weeks where our use of the Discipline Jars was pretty much non-existent and once again our stress level was elevated and then it takes a week or two to get back to mellow mode using the jars. Stay consistent. Even if it feels like the jars aren’t working, stay at it. Try it for at least a month and if you need to, re-evaluate things that could be done differently to make the jars more effective. Explain to your child, “Since our Discipline Jars are new, mommy needs to make a few tweaks. Here is something new I think we need to do so we can better remember to act kindly and listen.”
- Any time a misbehavior occurred, it was a good opportunity for me to review the rules. I would 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 would tell them, “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.
- Even as frustrated as I am, raising my voice at the boys or having a harsh voice with them, often makes the situation worse. They are so worried about how upset mommy is and are less likely to “hear” what I’m saying because they are so bothered by my reaction. If I want them to hear and learn the lesson, I need to speak calmly and kindly to them.
- Make sure you pick a reward for the week’s end and post it where your kids can see it! If they aren’t old enough to read, print out or cut out a picture of the item/activity and tape it up by the Discipline Jars. It is so important to keep the reward visual at all times. This way they can see it even when walking by. It can sometimes be enough to remind them to make good behavior choices.
- If your child is close to losing their reward, let them know. Several times I have sat down with one of the boys and counted out pebbles on Friday or Saturday. “Oh no, Dylan. You only have 6 more pebbles before you won’t be able to have game night with us on Sunday. I really want you to be able to play. I know how much you’ve been wanting to play Cootie. Please make sure to be nice so you don’t have to miss our fun time.”
- Praise your children regularly. If you see your child choosing a better way to act/react to a situation that they have lost pebbles for in the past, make sure to praise them! “Great job, Connor! I am so proud of you! You just chose to come to Mommy for help rather than hitting Dylan back. That was a good choice!” And… I always make sure to tell my boys at bedtime how proud I was of them on the days they didn’t lose any pebbles (or maybe just 1).
I am learning as much from the Discipline Jars as the boys. Sometimes we all need a reminder of how to love more, encourage more, and in my case calm down & yell less. This is a great way to build and strengthen family bonds by praising and rewarding good behavior and turning discipline into a positive learning experience.