Monday, June 24, 2013

Caught You Being Good Jar

I'm a huge fan of positive reinforcement, because nobody likes to hear "No" and "Stop" and "Don't..." all day long. With a 2.5 year old, I've found that it's super easy to get caught in the negativity trap, and it's at the end of days like that when I feel like I failed my child. I first got the idea for the "Caught You Being Good" Jar from my sister-in-law, Jamie, who used it with success for her five year old son. Here's how our program works:

  1. When Addy exhibits a favorable behavior, we praise her as precisely as possible and we put a ping pong ball in the jar. We have three categories of behaviors we are looking for: Being Polite, Cleaning Up, and Cooperating. Examples are:
    • Asking nicely ("Mommy, can I play with your phone please?")
    • Cleaning up after herself without prompting (taking a banana peel to the trash can, putting dirty dishes in the sink when she's finished, etc.)
    • Finishing dinner with no whining, complaining, etc.
    • Listening and/or following directions and commands without us having to repeat ourselves.
  2. When the jar is full (approximately 38 balls), Addy gets to choose a treat.
For the jar, I picked up a plastic fish bowl from the pet store and printed out a sign for the front. I ordered the ping pong balls from Amazon - 144 balls for $14 total. Given that 12 balls in the store go for about $5, this was a fantastic deal. And in a house with a toddler, you can never have too many balls, right?

We kicked off the program on Saturday, June 15th. We clearly explained the rules to Addy, and she seemed to understand the jist of it, though not the concept that her treat was not imminent. She went ahead and chose her treat - a trip to Menchie's Frozen Yogurt shop - and for the rest of the day, she repeatedly asked ,'Go to Menchie's now, PLEAAAAAAAASE? I need to go to Menchie's!" Matt and I agreed that for the first time around, we would give a ball for pretty much any hint of good behavior, so that she could see the end result relatively quickly. For the first couple days, every time I put a ball in the jar, she'd ask if we were going to Menchie's now. By the third or fourth day, I'd say she began to catch on to the concept of delayed gratification; each time I put a ball in, she'd say, "When the fish bowl is full, I going to Menchie's! It's called patience!" It took her 6 days to fill the jar - but I won't lie, I snuck a few balls in when she wasn't looking because I felt this first round was going too slowly. I didn't want her to get bored of it right off the bat!

On Friday, she got the trip to Menchie's that she earned, and we all had a lot of fun. She chose chocolate fro-yo, iced animal cookies, and miniature Reese's Pieces. After we sat down, she made the connection verbally, in so many words, that she filled the jar through good behavior and she earned her treat. And I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it more this time than ever before.

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