Lessons Learned from a Jar of Beans
3 years old is a magic age. Mom and Dad are still really cool. Dragons and fairies exist. My favourite part by far is the imagination, and creativity. A 3 year old just jumps in and creates – draws wacky things, colours outside of the lines, and reminds us of the wonder in the world.
They’re also super stubborn.
They want to do everything THEIR way. They want stools so they can see what you’re doing. They DON’T want yogurt for breakfast, they want PBJ. If you don’t give them PBJ, well, it’s just say sometimes it isn’t pretty.
In the past two or maybe three weeks, getting out the door to go to daycare has been a battle royale. Trying to get Mr J to skate was tough. Every little thing we asked of him he would yell, “I need heeeelllppppp….!” I would explain calmly that no, I was helping his sister right now, and he would have to wait. Cue the hysterical sobbing, throwing himself on the floor.
(Also why are stores set-up so specifically to frustrate your small children at the checkout lines with the gum, candy, drinks, and wonderful little small objects? I spend most of my time in line putting things back, or trying to wheel my cart strategically so neither of my children can reach these objects. Mass chaos, more yelling, and those judge-y stares. Oh c’mon, like you haven’t been there. Don’t stare at me.)
As a former Psychology students, she figured out:
I needed to stop focusing on the negative behaviour and start rewarding the positive behaviour… I needed something that he could focus on, something that grew in size as his behaviour started to improve. Something with a big reward at the end.
Simply put, she grabbed a large jar , and every time her son did something positive, she would add a chickpea to the jar. If it was something particularly great or arduous, she added a couple more. Jennifer let her son decide what the reward would be – he chose a Happy Meal at a McDonalds, and it had to have a Playplace.
Would it Work?
I was a little skeptical when I read about this magic jar of beans. I wasn’t sure if working at a larger goal was a concept that Mr J would understand. However, I already had jars and beans. There was no risk & no investment. If nothing else, DH and I would just be praising positive behaviour, which makes everyone feel great!
We started with basic things like sitting at the table until everyone is done, putting on your outdoor gear by yourself, brushing your teeth & hair, etc. Each positive behaviour that was exhibited when asked without fuss scored a bean. If it was a day-long task like getting to the bathroom on time, we were generous and gave 3-4.
When Mr J went to skating, had a great attitude and stayed on the ice the whole time, we POURED about 1.5 cup of beans into his jar. His eyes nearly popped out of his head!
Mr J is proud of his accomplishments, “I’m a big boy!” he says. He has even started getting things ready in advance before we go out the door and is incredibly helpful. He is working towards the goal of going swimming as a family at our local pool.
So can a cheap bag of beans (or whatever you have in your cupboard, really) help reinforce positive behaviours? With your consistent and constant praise, you bet it can.
a passionate recreation coordinator by day, crazy farm mama of two by night. i live outdoors: growing my own food, camping and hiking with my border collie with two active kids in tow. when I’m not writing, I’m experimenting with recipes, and crafts – or anything else that might keep the monkeys entertained.