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{effective toddler discipline | happy + sad jars}

Let's just preface this post with the fact that I don't really know what I am doing most days as a parent.
I certainly make many mistakes.
I find myself wishing for day re-do's more often than I'd like to admit.
I thought pushing a human out of my body was hard, but raising them is way harder.
By far the hardest job I've ever had.

Some of my friends suggested I share this... so today I am going to share with y'all a little incentive/discipline trick that has worked quite well with my three year old.
Because lets face it. Three year olds aren't always fun.
Three year olds are stubborn.
And three year olds can throw some nasty fits.
Please tell me it's not just my three year old!?

I almost liked it better when he was two, and I had excuses for his behavior, like...
he's too young to understand completely, it's still hard for him to communicate what's bothering him, yada, yada, yada.
Fact is, now he is totally capable of all of the above.

I used this same method in my classroom when I taught 3rd grade.
It's actually fairly simple.
So simple that it is definitely worth a shot.
Have at it:

How to make the jars:
Take two jars.
Make one a happy jar.
Make the other a sad jar.
Fill each jar half way with popcorn kernels.
You'll need a scoop of sorts {a tablespoon seems to be a good size... mine came from a coffee maker, but really anything will work}

Here is how the jars work:
Each time that your child does something good or positive - give them a happy scoop {take the scoop from the sad jar and place into happy jar}.
Examples... sharing a toy with a sibling, doing a kind deed, cleaning up without being asked, etc. 
I'm sure that each parent can think of lots of specifics that relate more specifically to their child.

Same goes for the sad jar.
If your child does something naughty, they will get a sad scoop {take a scoop from the happy jar and place into the sad jar}.
I'm sure all of our definitions of "naughty" are a little different.
And will really vary depending on the behavior that you are trying to suppress.
Perhaps alternative discipline, instead of just a sad scoop, is necessary for purposefully hurting someone else, etc. also.
Some examples for getting a sad scoop may be: not listening or obeying right away, taking something from a sibling, attitude, etc.

What's the incentive?
The point is to do good things that make people happy, instead of naughty things that make people sad.
You gotta fill up that happy jar!
When we started these jars, it only seemed fitting that when the happy jar got full, we have a popcorn party... since the jars are full of popcorn kernels.
During Beckam's nap, Brody and I would pop our own popcorn, watch a show, and even have a little bit of ice cream.
We made a big deal out of it.
So he wanted to be doing good things all the time in order to get that jar full.
Brody has since become super duper obsessed with Thomas the Train.
Currently, if he fills up his happy jar, he can choose a new train.
It usually takes him 3-4 weeks to fill up his jar... so $10/month isn't that large of a price to pay for good behavior, right?
He's got plenty of toys though, so I think we will be returning to the quality time prize again ASAP.

NOW, when/if that sad jar gets full {which has never happened all the way, but has come far too close} there has to be a major consequence.
Example: the entire train track gets taken away and doesn't get returned until the happy jar gets full.
Recently in our household the sad scoops weren't making a big enough impression since it didn't ever get totally full. 
So now, every single sad scoop equals one toy taken away. 
I currently have a stash of toys, which he will get back when that happy jar gets full.

The goal is to not be getting sad scoops at all.
Clearly, we aren't there yet.
But, with that being said, this works. 
For my kid at least.

There are so many different options of how you can alter this to meet your and your child's needs.
My one suggestion... be CONSISTENT!
You can't forget to give scoops for an entire day.
You also can't remember to just give sad scoops... look for the good in your kid... even if it's a stretch some days. 
I find that if kids are praised for something {even if it's small} they'll want to try and do more good things so they get praised more. 
Having the visual of the jar is extremely helpful too.

So... what do you think?
Are you going to give it a try?
Let me know how it goes!

Also, I'd love to hear some ways that you guys deal with your toddlers and get them to behave well consistently.
I'm ALWAYS up for a new/good challenge.



  1. This is a great idea! I have too have a three year old who can be challenging. A lot of the advice we get from folks is to spank him, however Hubs and I have decided to not go down that path. I have felt kind of lost as to how to discipline our son, so this is a great way to to instill in him the desire to do good things and behave,

    Thanks for sharing!

    Chels @ Red Velvet Rooster

  2. I really like this idea- I care for 2.5 and 5 year old and they both definitely have their days.. this might work better than the star-chart we are currently trying to use. Thanks!

  3. Such a great idea. I'll have to keep this in mind for when P is closer to 3....shes only 21 months now, so I'm not wishing it upon us any time soon!!! :)

  4. I love it! I need to pin this idea so I don't forget it before Henry gets old enough to use it.

  5. I don't even have a kid yet and I am pinning this... as we get closer to trying I am pinning anything and everything that might in some small way help!!!

  6. Good idea. I like that there is a consequence for the bad scoop, every time one gets put in there, because I don't think it's really fair to wait for the jar to fill up and then take something big away for something he did a month ago. So cute about having a popcorn party when the jar fills up. Wish I wasn't allergic to corn! Darn allergies!

  7. Oh my goodness I love this idea!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Oh, I love this idea!! I'll have to save this for our future kiddos.


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