As a mom, I have often felt like I spend most of my day telling my girls no, to stop doing something or correcting them in some way. Some days it seems like they get a kick out of seeing if they can push my buttons. I know you know exactly what I am talking about. Although correction and discipline are important parts of parenting, they are not the only parts. We also need ways to encourage and at times to reward good behavior from our kids as well. A great way to do that is with a gem jar.
What is a Gem Jar
A gem jar is simply a jar or container that you use to collect ‘gems’ that your child earns for good behavior. Once the gems reach a certain level or the jar becomes full, the child gets a special treat. It is a great and simple way to point out good behavior from our kids and encourage them to continue in that direction.
This great parenting tip I actually first heard about from my oldest daughter when she was in kindergarten. Her teacher used a gem jar as a way to encourage and reward good behavior from her entire class. I thought if this could work for an entire class of kindergarteners, then I could definitely make it work with my three girls.
Using a gem jar allows us to put the focus on encouraging good behavior and not just discouraging bad behavior. Every child wants to be acknowledged for the good things and decisions they make. Much like we often do even as adults. The gem jar is a great way to do just that.
How to Make a Gem Jar
You can make it a simple or as fancy as you like, but the basic materials required would be the same:
- A clear jar or containers
- A label
- Markers or pens for the label
- ‘Gems’ (glass stone, marbles, rocks, whatever you like)
- A jar or container to store the gems
I used mason jars I previously purchased from Walmart, but you can get them at any craft store or dollar store. The labels I used are chalkboard labels I had leftover from a previous project. Similarly, labels can be found at any craft store, Walmart, and on Amazon. Also because I used chalkboard labels I used chalk markers as well, and they are also available where chalkboard labels are sold. Then for the gems, I used accent gems I found at Dollar Tree.
Once you have all your materials, you are free to put together and decorate your jar in any way you like. Possibly taking into consideration your child’s interests, favorite things, colors, etc.
Using the Gem Jar
Just like our kids are unique, so are the things your child may get rewarded for. So what your child may be rewarded for may be totally different from mine, and that is okay. For example, my girls are REALLY SLOW eaters at times. So they will get a gem for eating in less than 30 minutes. (And yes I do set a timer 😉) However, your kids may have no problems eating, but they do not like cleaning up after they are finished eating. As an example, you may give your child a gem for cleaning up after themselves without being told. The sky is the limit for what your child may receive a gem for.
I also decided to add two unique features to my gem jar reward system that I know you would love too. The first one is to not just wait until the jar was full before my girls could get a reward, but set smaller goals to achieve along the way. So on my girls’ labels, they have two lines that once reached can allow them to get a smaller reward.
Types of Rewards
These will also be geared specifically to your child. Every child loves different things and will be motivated by different things. For example, when one of my girls reaches the first reward line they get to either cook with me without their sisters or 30 minutes on the iPad. If they reach the second reward line, they get a prize from our prize bag. The prize bag is a bag filled with a collection of books, toys and other things I’ve purchased for only a few dollars a piece. Then once the jar is filled, they get to plan and go on a special date with their dad or me. After completion of this, we dump out the gems in the jar and they get to start again.
Another unique feature I’ve added to the gem jar reward system is the removal of gems as a form of discipline. Yes, I know this may seem counter productive, but everything needs balance.
Gem Jars Can Also Help With Discipline
Our kids need to always be reminded that their actions can have either positive reinforcement or negative consequences. Working towards earning gems by exhibiting good behavior is great. However, when they are exhibiting bad behavior they also need to understand that there are consequences for those actions as well. For example, my girls will lose a gem for whining or crying for no real reason, being unkind or mean to others, or not listening. I always take the time to remind them, a warning if you will, that their behavior may cause them to lose a gem. If they continue, I do take a gem from their jar.
This helps to teach our kids that life is all about choices. They make good choices and they can work towards receiving a reward. They make bad choices that can prevent themselves from getting that reward. Definitely not the most fun part of parenting, but hey no one ever said this stuff was going to be easy. 😉
Key Gem Jar Success
There are three keys that will help you successfully use gem jars with your kids. The first is keeping the gem jar visible and accessible. This way you do not forget about it and it becomes a part of your every day. We keep ours in the kitchen on the counter because that’s where we spend a lot of time. The second key is to keep a list near the gem jar of some examples of ways to earn a gem, lose a gem, and the rewards. This is especially helpful if any of your children can read. My girls are always looking at the list to remind themselves of what they are working towards. The third key and most important is to be consistent. Like with anything consistency is key both for your kids and yourself. Your kids need to know you are serious and committed to this.
Gem jars are a simple and great parenting tool we all could use. Helping to encourage and reward the good behavior our kids exhibit on a daily basis.
I’d love to hear if you have ever used a gem jar, or another rewarding tool, for kids
and if not, would you try it now in the comments!