Home Parenting TipsReward and Consequence System Warning: Your Child’s Behavior Problem Might Actually Be YOU

Warning: Your Child’s Behavior Problem Might Actually Be YOU

by Ivy B

I had it up to my eyeballs with my child’s behavior.  But, I learned a valuable lesson in parenting when I started the consequence and reward jar system for behavior modification.

When we implemented the Consequence and Reward Jars, it was simply to try to find a way to make it through the day with a little more sanity.  I needed to improve my daughter’s behavior.  S had lost her manners, was expecting to be given things, and became fairly unreasonable.  She needed to be brought back to earth.  It was important for me to do all this with less yelling, which was getting us nowhere (aside from considering therapy before she turned 5).

The first day was a total bust.  There was yelling.  Consequences were pulled.  When consequences get pulled, there’s no reward ball for the day.  And, I almost gave up.

The following day, however, I completely lost my mind.  (Okay, not really, but I felt like it for a moment).  It was as though S knew to continue pushing my buttons to receive attention, regardless of how bad the attention was.  One moment, she was testing me, yelling, and stomping.  The next moment, I can’t remember exactly what she said or did, but I remember sitting there in stunned silence.

And then I laughed.  I didn’t know how else to respond but to laugh, otherwise, I was going to cry.  At the same time, I was fighting back tears.  I was just done.


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She laughed.  First, she got mad that I was laughing, because “it [wasn’t] funny.”  But, she laughed.  That ended whatever problem we were having at the time.  She laughed and walked out of the room to play.

What I learned from the consequence and reward jar system

I am capable of diffusing her anger.  She wasn’t able to continue being mad while laughing.  Plus, I couldn’t hold the grudge if we were both laughing.

Thanks to the exhaustion associated with having two children, I’d come to a point that everything was annoying.  I’d moved away from warnings.  Instead, I immediately reprimanded her for infractions, no matter how minor or serious.  There was no delightful banter and I left no room for discussion.

What I really found was that I was perpetuating a lot of the trouble since I had no patience.  I had previously lost the ability to diffuse any situation.  And, everything escalated a situation until the entire day was ruined.

...I was perpetuating a lot of the trouble since I had no patience. Share on X

When we started the system, my husband asked if I thought S could fill up the reward jar in a reasonable time frame.  Of course, my response had been an enthusiastic “No.”  I would have been right if I’d continued with my attitude.

That simple laugh gave her the attention she craved and reminded me that not every act of disobedience is worthy of punishment.  It reminded me that she needs more attention that I was obviously giving her.  I was going through the motions day in and day out, praising myself for keeping the kids alive, fed, and clean(ish).  But, I wasn’t spending much quality time with either, and my daughter acting out was her cry for attention.

...not every act of disobedience is worthy of punishment Share on X

Amazingly, that first week taught me how to find some patience so that S could earn her reward.  And, little more than a month passed when she earned her first outing.  Of course, she had a couple days she lost her reward ball, and another couple she earned the bonus puff.

Now, my husband laughs at me for believing it couldn’t be done.

better behavior with consequence and reward jar system

Ways YOU can ensure success with the consequence and reward jar system

child behavior reward jar

Remember that part of your child’s attitude reflects your own.  And, there’s no room for improvement if you’re on edge regularly (I speak from experience).  Here are some ways to ensure your child is successful in this system.

  • Get plenty of rest.  Getting enough sleep will improve your mood.
  • Diffuse the situation.  Does your child need your attention?  If a simple laugh or hug will diffuse the entire situation, start with it.
  • Keep your bad mood to yourself.  It’s part of the house rules, and so appropriate in this situation. Your bad mood reflects onto your child and makes the day more difficult for everyone.
  • Keep emotion out of consequences.  There’s no reason to yell at your child.  When it’s deserved, calmly send your child to the consequence jar.
  • Reprimand appropriately.  It’s okay to have warnings but be sure they receive consequences when it’s rightly deserved.  Skip the reward for the day upon a serious infraction.
  • Follow through.  Whether you say “last warning” or “go to the consequence jar,” stick to it.
  • Don’t take everything so seriously.  Ask yourself, first, whether you believe your child is acting out for attention or true disobedience and act accordingly.

When we devised this system, I was certain it was to teach my daughter that there are consequences for every action.  Some are good, some are bad.  What I hadn’t realized as that I was going to be teaching myself a lesson.  It’s one I can’t unlearn as I see it play out at least once a week.  When S begins to act out of sorts, I always remember the first time I just laughed.  Now, she looks at me to see how I’m going to react and she’s begun laughing first.  I know, in those moments, she’s seeking attention and it’s time for me to give it to her.  Other times, when she’s just disobedient, she’s not smiling about it, and I know it’s really time for the consequence jar.

If you’re struggling with your child’s behavior, sign up for my email newsletter and get your free download of the consequence slips for your own consequence jar.  If you implement a consequence and reward jar system for your own house, I’d love to hear how you made it work for you.

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Herchel S September 19, 2016 - 12:39 pm

I’ve learned that my mood sets the tone in the house. Daddy’s affects it but not like mine does. Glad you learned from the experience too!

Ivy B September 19, 2016 - 12:59 pm

I feel like Daddy’s sets the mood more here, if he’s home. I’m always on edge that the kids are going to annoy him more than they annoy me LOL

SARAH NENNI DAHER September 19, 2016 - 1:28 pm

Your realization that not every act of disobedience is worthy of punishment is spot-on and is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned with my little girl.

Ivy B September 19, 2016 - 10:11 pm

Always learning and changing as a parent. Never know until you are one.

Jill Robbins September 19, 2016 - 1:33 pm

The old saying “If mama ain’t happy then nobody’s happy” is totally true, right? Our moods definitely sway the climate of the household.

Ivy B September 19, 2016 - 10:12 pm

Truth! We were all pretty miserable … I wish I’d come up with this sooner to learn my lesson.

Jasmine Hewitt September 20, 2016 - 12:11 am

My 14 month old has def already learned early on that mood is everything – and will give the appropriate response to whatever mine is

Elizabeth Doren September 20, 2016 - 5:26 pm

I love this. We’re entering the terrible twos (my other is 18 months behind the first) and I love this idea. There’s something tangible that she can see.

Ivy B September 20, 2016 - 7:52 pm

I think the tangibility part is exactly what helped us. An immediate and unknown consequence seems nerve-wracking, and watching the reward jar fill up builds excitement.

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teacuptoria September 22, 2016 - 9:40 am

Aw awesome work well done! Children really do pick up on EVERYTHING! So if you don’t think they can behave then they won’t but if you believe it them, encourage and nurture them. I find they usually want to please you. It’s great to find a way to discipline without shouting and tears 🙂 Great post. #brillblogposts

Ivy B September 22, 2016 - 10:34 am

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I forget to consult the consequence jar … now it’s because we go so long in between time I feel she needs it, that it isn’t habit. We’ll get there though 🙂

Monica September 22, 2016 - 11:45 am

Ugh. I have so much to work on in regards of good parenting. I need to quit yelling and attempt to diffuse my children’s anger as you say. I also need to work on keeping my bad to myself…. 🙁 I feel like I’ve been in a constant struggle lately with keeping the home “peaceful”. Busy schedules and poor sleep patterns are NOT helping.

On a better note, thanks for the inspiration to create a consequence & reward jar. I never thought to do a consequence one.

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Melissa June 4, 2017 - 12:31 am

This is a great idea and I am eager to start using this system in my own house. How exactly does
The reward work? I noticed you have a jar of reward Pom-poms. How do they earn them and what do they get from them?

Ivy B June 4, 2017 - 10:44 am

We use the reward jar this way:
At the end of the day, if she hasn’t received a consequence, she receives a reward ball. Once the reward jar has been filled with Pom Poms, we allow our daughter to choose a family-friendly activity/outing. We have a total of 36 pom poms … she gets one pom pom at the end of a successful day. She can earn an extra ball for an unprompted act of kindness beyond normal or being especially good in situations that can be super stressful. Like – an appointment mommy can’t get out of but could be difficult for children to sit through. Think doctor’s appointment or having to sit at the shop having the car worked on.
We choose experience rewards instead of physical rewards because the kids have too much stuff and I don’t want a bunch of little junk.
However, you could tweak the system to suit your family. If your child needs a more immediate reward, you could very well do so daily or weekly.

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Jennifer Ostroski August 16, 2017 - 12:47 am

Ugh, we all go there and we have all been there. These are awesome suggestions to help keep everyone in check, I love it!

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