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

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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.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@sahmplusblog”]”…I was perpetuating a lot of the trouble since I had no patience. “[/tweetthis]

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.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@sahmplusblog”]”…not every act of disobedience is worthy of punishment”[/tweetthis]

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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