If you want a better way to discipline without emotion, avoiding yelling, hitting, or spanking a child, then here’s a smart way to remove yourself from the drama and stress of disciplining toddlers and older children with consequence and rewards jars.
If you’re looking for ways to reward good behavior and positive behaviors, reward jars can be a good idea. The important thing is that you make the right choice for what works for you and your family. At the end of the day, strong communication and understanding are key as well. Reward jars can be a great way to help your child learn how to make good choices.
As a stay at home mom of two children, ages 6 and 2 years, I’m no stranger to the laundry list of ways children push buttons and misbehave. It’s often impossible to discipline without emotion.
I don’t care what people say about a child’s comfort level and that they test the person they’re with the most… it’s exhausting! Honestly, it doesn’t help me to know they test me more because they’re with me more. It just makes me want to add to the whining and crying in the house.
I’ll admit, fully, that there are some really dark times I yell at my children. And, it’s been compounded with the addition of the second child.
Motherhood can be difficult. Probably more so than any one of us could have imagined. And, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself guilty over some (or many) aspects of your parenting.
Controlling Emotions without Yelling
Disciplining through emotions and yelling have been two of the things I regret most. How can I teach my children to be in control of their emotions if I struggle with them myself?
Over the past year, I’d worked hard to get my oldest to behave, trying nearly everything in the books. Talking “logically,” counting to three, offering a choice between two punishments, and spanking. When it felt as though nothing was working, I resorted to yelling.
Yelling …. because that works.
And I wasn’t above doling out ridiculous consequences in the midst of my anger, either.
At some point, I finally realized a few things I was doing wrong in the discipline process. Part of the problem was that I allowed too many emotions to get into the mix. I had to learn how to discipline without emotion!
This is how I improved the emotional state of our disciplinary processes, regained control, and reduced the yelling.
Keys to Discipline Without Emotion
If you’re tired of getting nowhere with discipline, try these steps on a path to discipline without emotion. Positive reinforcement using rewards jar options and other ways to encourage positivity really can work.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
What I learned while using the consequence and reward jar system (described in more detail below) is that part of my daughter’s bad behavior was my fault.
I’d become overwhelmed with motherhood. I was tired of the crying and her acting out around me. And, to be honest, I began to see every act of disobedience as something that needed to be punished immediately.
But, I’d forgotten to have fun. My bad attitude was being reflected in my daughter, and I was creating some of the problems myself.
Part of keeping your emotions in check includes making sure you’ve spent quality time with your kids, enjoying each others’ presence, and trying to take a moment regularly to laugh as a family.
Decide on House Rules
Deciding, with your spouse, the house rules you both wish to enforce will make it easier to parent as a team and know when it’s appropriate to require your child to pull a consequence from the consequence jar. Clearly discussed house rules and expectations ensure that everyone is on the same page.
If you’d like a House Rules printable, along with other parenting resources, I’d love for you to join the SAHM, plus… newsletter! You’ll receive instant access to a resource library full of resources including House Rules and a printable consequence jar list.
Set up a Consequence Jar
When I first began this idea of using consequence and reward jars, I simply listed age-appropriate consequences for my child. I listed ones we already used and searched the internet for other consequences other moms were using to help with behavior modification.
Once I had a list of consequences I thought were good, I cut them out and put them into a consequence jar. My jar was just an old cleaned out spaghetti sauce jar and I roughly labeled it with peel and stick chalkboard vinyl.
A few consequence ideas include vacuum the couch, clean the coffee table, no electronics for a day, and go to bed 15 minutes early.
Check out this post with consequence jar ideas if you’d like even more ideas.
Whenever my child breaks a house rule or otherwise are in need of correction, she has to pull a consequence from the consequence jar.
Remembering to send your child to the consequence jar immediately will reduce YOUR emotional investment in the disciplinary process and allow you to remain calm. It’s also a great way to help reduce power struggles.
Set Up a Reward Jar
Using a reward jar is as important as the consequence jar.
You can take some attention off the bad days and physically recognize the good days. Just as you’re trying to discipline without emotion, you need to recognize and reward your child for being good. A reward jar will increase the good emotions for the family.
I used two more old, cleaned up glass jars and placed craft pom poms in one. We used roughly 36 pom poms. Label one of them “Reward Jar” and the other “Empty Me” or come up with something more clever if it suits you.
If your child doesn’t have to pull a consequence for the day, they will be allowed to place one of the pom poms into the reward jar. Additionally, your child can earn a reward ball for an extraordinary act of kindness or generosity that you catch.
When your child fills their reward jar, allow them to choose a fun reward.
It doesn’t have to be a physical item because, Lord knows, most kids have more stuff than they need. We choose to allow our daughter the choice of a family activity like going to a museum, choosing a special dinner, a bounce house, or going out for a special treat. Because she fills hers up in about a month, bigger activity rewards are feasible.
Again, the reward jar is completely up to you how you see fit to use it! If you need to reward more often, find a smaller jar and use fewer pom poms.
Let me first make it clear that our Consequence and Reward Jar system works for us, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Luckily, with a little thought, you can customize our processes to suit your own needs. But, I guarantee, with practice, this will result in less yelling on your part.
For so long as I remember, the consequence jar allows me to be consistent in punishment. Yes, that means it takes practice when you’re so used to doling out a consequence on the fly.
When we’re out of the house, it’s really hard to remember the jar. But, when I do, punishment is swift and consistent.
Consistency is key to maintaining an effective disciplinary system. Kids are smart and, whether or not we like to admit it, they catch when we vary our approach in any way. My daughter called me out on it one day … “if it was so bad, why didn’t I have to pull a consequence?”
Guys, whatever it was that day, I totally forgot to follow through with discipline, and she kind of gloated about getting away with whatever it was she’d done. WHOOPS!
It isn’t easy to discipline without emotion. Believe me when I say that I’m still struggling with my strong negative emotions and I’ve been using this system for a couple years! I become emotionally worn out with two kids squabbling. They take turns whining throughout the day. And, my attention is almost constantly being diverted from one thing to the next. Sometimes, I feel that’s all I do is chase a moment of peace throughout the day and it gets to me.
I get angry. And then I feel guilty.
I have to remind myself that I’m a good mom …. I just hit a breaking point. All I can do is apologize and try harder next time.
Recognize what set you off, make a mental note, and apologize to yourself and your children.
The consequence and reward jar system has been a highly effective approach to reducing dramatics and better discipline without emotion (at least on my part). What I love most about it is that it’s highly adaptable for various ages. You decide on age-appropriate consequences and when/if one of them no longer seems appropriate, you switch it up.
My husband and I can do regular check-ins on the system to discuss what we like or dislike and adapt it to fit our needs anytime.
Best of all, it’s continually helping me learn to discipline without emotion. It’s reduced power struggles and often results in fewer instances I feel I need to yell. And, I feel as though my daughter takes the responsibility of her consequences much more seriously because, essentially, she’s doling them out to herself.
I think it’s also more intimidating to her because she doesn’t know if she’ll simply have to vacuum the couch or if the consequence will be as bad as losing electronics for a day.
Other tips for using positive reinforcement
You can also use a marble jar reward system where marbles are adding in for child’s behavior that is positive and marbles can be lost if hard work isn’t accomplished. When the marbles reach the top of the jar, a gift or reward can then happen. (Just be careful as the marbles can be a choking hazard for smaller children!)
Reward charts can be used for all ages as well to help them visually understand. This can be a great idea for potty training, toilet training, a good learning tool for little learners, and also to be able to discuss negative behavior.
Make sure that your child knows that actions do start over the next day. You don’t want them to carry over a bad day yesterday and have it run into the next day or week.
If your house operates with screen time limits, have different levels that the kids can earn to earn more screen time. You can even make up some cute wooden tokens to hand out to the kids as a way to enforce positive behavior. When kids are actually given something to show their hard work, this may resonate with them more.
Ivy is a married, sorta crunchy mother of two high-needs kids – fully supporting natural birth, baby wearing, and breastfeeding. But, as a mom realizes life isn’t black and white – we do what we think is best for ourselves and our families and that trumps what anyone thinks is right for us. She offers realistic, honest advice for parents, marriage, and travel at her website SAHM, plus… You can follow her on Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Instagram.
H. Forth says
I don’t doubt your serious involvement with your kids.I suggest a good read that will help us all to better see B. F. Skinner’s “Behaviorist Tactics” in a “Doing to” model of parenting which teaches kids to be rather “self centered” rather than concerned about effects of their “behavior” on others. “What’s in it for me?” “What do I have to do to avoid punishment?” Such questions promote a “self centered” outlook. Please read Alfie Kohn’s book, “Punished by Rewards”. I consider him to be a “Myth Buster” for parenting, public school teaching and corporate management. What’s the old saying accredited to PBS’s Mr. Selfridge, the American entrepreneur in London, England: “Managers afix the blame. Leaders fix the problem!” Kohn also wrote “The Myth of the Spoiled Child” and “Unconditional Parenting”. All are “not only” good reads, and backed up with scientific research, (not just “hear-say” anecdotes), but can be obtained on CD in MP3 format. See Amazon.com. and http://www.alfiekohn.org. Other books by Alfie, “The Homework Myth”, “No Contest”. They’re listed on his web page. We would do better to condition our pets or raise tropical fish than to offend one of these little ones by using manipulative praise, punishments and rewards. Mr. Kohn offers many alternatives to such behaviorist “pet raising” tactics. See Wikipedia’s article on B. F. Skinner and I quote, “Skinner considered “free will” an illusion and human action dependent on consequences of previous actions. If the consequences are bad, there is a high chance the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, the probability of the action being repeated become stronger. Skinner called this the principle of reinforcement.” He worked on lab rats and other critters, but wrote about applying such tactics on humans, both old and young. Not a good approach to raising children!! They deserve better “working with” approaches than “doing to” tactics. At best, such tactics will produce lots of “resentful compliance”. If we really want to help “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers” then Alfie Kohn’s way is much better. I know that Alfie’s Jewish and doesn’t yet seem to understand how our Father in Heaven persuades His Children (us) to follow Him. Compulsory virtue is not His way; although, just such a way was proposed to us all during our pre-mortal existence. A third of us accepted that proposal. The rest of us were allowed to receive mortal bodies on this planet. Our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, promised to allow us to choose our own way in this life — “free will”. He also promised to remove effects of our willful, ignorant or accidental disobedience, when we voluntarily choose to learn and follow his commandments. Has anyone ever attempted to “force you to love them”? It doesn’t work. Our Father in Heaven does not force us to love Him and neither should we in our relationships with our children.
Katelyn Fagan says
Thank you for your comments! This was actually a guest post written by a friend, but appreciate your critique. I have struggled internally with the idea of giving praise, rewards, and consequences for behavior as it feels shallow and I do want to see long-term changes and internal motivations in my children rather than ONLY doing things because there is something in it for them. Obviously, these short-terms rewards/punishments work, at least for a while, and can have their place, but I agree that there has to be a better way. Thanks for the book references. I have heard of a few of those, but haven’t read them yet. I’m sure I’d enjoy them though as I love a good parenting book.
H. Forth says
If it pleases you (Please), listen to Hugh Nibley’s lecture, year 1954,The Ancient Law of Liberty.
It also appears in Nibley’s book, “The World and The Prophets”.
So many of us have fallen for an “economic model” of our “Father in Heaven’s plan” for bringing His Children back to Him. Some say that we’ll need to “earn” our way back. If voluntary obedience can be equated with “earning”, then involuntary “compliance” can be equated with “love of God”. I don’t believe that such an equation should or can exist. King Benjamin reminded his people, “are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah4:19) [Beggers are often looked upon as burdens to Capitalist Economies — they (the beggars) can’t buy money.] I would state that “salvation” is not “earned”, but received by voluntary compliance including “asking for forgiveness” (repentance). When such “forgiveness” is “granted” you’ll know it and then you’ll be able to receive “more abundant life” as promised in John 10:10.
This is great. The only part I wonder about is “don’t share your bad mood”. It has to be clear that negative emotions and negative feelings are just as OK as positive ones. I would suggest instead as a rule “Share well unless your forcefield is down” or something like that. In our house we use the term “communicate effectively” and the kids use the term “force field” for their bondaries – both containment and protection – all emotions are OK and we strive towards healthy boundaries, healthy communication, and healthy relationships (ALL of us – this is totally new learning for mom and dad)
J. Ivy Boyter says
That’s a good idea Ann. I chose “don’t share your bad mood” because I don’t want the kids’ moods to be passed to one another. It’s okay if they’re having a moment (or day), but they don’t need it to transfer to others. Definitely taylor the house rules to wording that fits your family 😀