Help your child decorate the outside of two clear mason jars with stickers, glitter, and other craft supplies. Explain to him or her that one jar is the “good” jar, and one is the “bad” jar.
Chose one positive prize or activity, such as a new board game or a trip to the local ice cream shop, and one disciplinary measure, such as loss of playtime with friends, or no dessert after dinner. Create signs indicating these consequences, and place them above the corresponding jar.
Explain to your child that you will be placing marbles in each jar for both good and bad behavior. Be clear about what your expectations are, and what sorts of actions will result in marbles being added to either jar. Some parents choose to “weight” the relative importance of behaviors (one marble for not sharing, three marbles for hitting a sibling) while others prefer the simplicity of one marble per action.
As the jars fill up, be prompt and consistent with the delivery of consequences. Prizes and award activities can be rotated as desired, however it’s best to keep disciplinary measures consistent.
The Unicorn Game
Pick a fun, neutral, non-punitive word to serve as the basis for your game. Fantasy words like “unicorn” or made up words can work well. Turn on your child’s favorite music, and dance with him or her. At periodic intervals, pause the music and say your selected word, encouraging your child to be as quiet and still as possible. After a brief moment of silence (10 to 15 seconds), restart the music and resume the dance party.
Children generally enjoy “call-and-response” activities, and will quickly understand that as soon as they hear the word, they’re expected to freeze. If necessary, you can further encourage the behavior by using small rewards, although a simple high-five or a pat on the back is often enough reinforcement for your child to get the message.
After several practice sessions, begin to integrate your word into your disciplinary routine. By preparing your child with clear behavioral modeling and the positive reinforcement of music, he or she will be significantly more willing to comply. This technique can be particularly effective when problems arise in public.
If your kids are messy or disorganized, help them establish good habits by starting a “bank.” Tell your child that any toys or personal items that are left out of place will be taken to the bank, and will be available for future return.
When your child leaves a toy out, simply collect it and place it in an inaccessible location. Explain that the item has been taken to the bank, and can be collected after 24 hours, as long as the “interest” is payed. “Interest” usually takes the form of a small household chore such as wiping down the kitchen counters or helping a younger sibling with homework.
Before starting your bank, be sure that you
Everyone, at some point, wishes for the chance to go back in time and do things differently. For your children, creating a “time warp” can allow them the opportunity to do just that.
When your child engages in a negative or destructive behavior (pulling a sibling’s hair, for instance), begin with a brief time-out to clear the air. Then ask your child how he might replay the scenario to achieve a different outcome. Allow him to act out the revised scenario. Be sure to follow up with lots of positive reinforcement.
Create “surprise” envelopes, containing small prizes such as individual pieces of candy, small toys, or “reward” cards that can be redeemed for a trip to the park or a play-date with friends. Keep the contents of the envelopes a secret.
Let your child decorate a shoebox with construction paper, colored pencils, and markers, to serve as a “treasure chest.” Place the shoebox in a visible public area, such as a kitchen counter or livingroom shelf.
Each time your child performs an action worthy of positive reinforcement, such as sharing a toy or cleaning up after himself, place a reward envelope into the treasure chest. Each time your child displays a negative behavior, explain the consequences of his or her action, and remove one envelope from the box. For children who struggle with behavioral or emotional difficulties, it may be necessary to slightly “front load” the box with prizes. At the end of each week, allow your child to open the treasure chest, and enjoy the rewards of his or her good behavior.
Keeping your children well behaved without spanking isn’t difficult. It just requires commitment, creativity, and lots of love.