I've never been one for reward charts or marble jars - I contribute it to some of the parenting books I read early on suggesting, with the right kind of parenting, my kids should be able to obey the first time. Understandably this spilled over into many legalistic expectations in other areas of their multifaceted, energy packed, messy little lives. They should always have a cheerful heart, prefer their brothers, encourage others, pick up their toys when asked, and brush their teeth without having to be reminded...And because I had taught them, trained them, encouraged them in these things, I wasn't going to cajole them with shiny round pieces of glass or glittery sticker stars. Then suddenly this simple truth, touted by many gracious mothers before me, found its way into my misled heart:
How happy am I that my generous father in heaven does not require first time obedience from me. And, for that matter, He doesn't follow me around each day pointing out each time I fall short.
And so we dove into the refreshing waters of encouragement via rewards. First they had a Brotherly Love Chart, earning stickers when they were caught putting a brother's needs ahead of their own. Next we passed out Servant's Heart Tickets to boys who were, similarly, serving others rather than looking out for Numero Uno! Do you see a trend here? We really emphasized relationships rather than just behaviors. And if I heard a bit of praise from another mother or teacher about my child, well instead of 1 sticker it was 10 they earned! 10 stickers really fill up a chart and inspire great hope!
Though we have finally moved on to marbles, the concept remains the same. Recycled mason jars, decorated with the child's name, make a magical sound when a marble is dropped in. The tingling music of encouargement.
And the reward, the reward is special together time with Mom or Dad. 30 marbles = a date with one of us. I knew that I didn't want to reward them with screen time or prizes, but with a sense of being wanted and celebrated; of belonging. It also seemed a natural lesson since when they are unkind to their brothers, not listening to their Dad or me, or just plain getting out of control, they are asked to go to their room. How wonderful that when their hearts are right, producing right behavior, they are rewarded with together time.
I grow in this area of encouragement each time I offer up these rewards. A few months ago I wrote a post entitled Parenting Lessons from Paul
that really propelled up and out of legalism and into grace. I have much growing still to do, but I am moving in the right direction (grace is always the right direction). And God is patient with me as I make mistakes, which only reinforces the lesson.
Be patient with them.