Marbles

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I’m not a terribly creative parent. Mostly, I’m a lazy parent, which is something I’m working on, when I feel like it. Sometimes – please don’t tell them, but sometimes I don’t even like my children very much.

This was something that astonished me about motherhood: that sometimes a mother might not like her children, her darling angels. I love them, certainly, but there are days that I want to sell them on Ebay.

I’ve noticed that those days happen most often when I have told David to do something simple NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES, and he still gets halfway up the stairs and gets distracted by something, like a speck of dust or a pressing question about traffic patterns. And the days when Noah marches into the room and demands a snack, several times at top volume, just when I’ve finally gotten Peter to nurse to sleep.

Enter the Marble Jars.

img_1601The Marble Jar was an idea from a parenting class I’m taking at church, a class I confess I’m taking less for the training on parenting and more for two hours of cheap childcare every Wednesday morning. How it works is: you isolate a specific behavior you want to target. in your child. You pick a reward that will motivate him. And you explain to your child that he will earn a marble (or three, or ten) every time he does whatever it is you want to him to do. When his jar is filled with marbles, he gets his reward.

There are a couple of rules: you don’t target anything biological, like potty training or eating all his dinner. And you never, under any circumstances, take away marbles as a punishment.

We started marble jars yesterday afternoon. David’s is a Do It the First Time jar: every time Aaron or I give him a task and he does it immediately without arguing, complaining, or asking us why, he earns a marble. When his jar is full, he’ll get a trip to the movies with me or Aaron.

Noah’s is an Ask Nicely jar. Every time he remembers to ask nicely for something, he earns a marble. When his jar is full, he’ll get a trip to the mall to ride the escalators and the merry-go-round and eat overpriced caramel popcorn.

There’s a third jar: a Be On Time jar for Mommy. Mommy has some punctuality issues, so I figured I might as well reward myself for fixing them. It’ll be good for the kids to see me working on improving myself alongside them. And I’m hoping the motivation to see me earn a marble will help them get their little rears in gear when it’s time to get out the door for preschool.

I haven’t decided what my reward will be – any suggestions?

So far this morning, David hasn’t had to be told to do anything twice. And Noah hasn’t demanded anything. I like them better already.

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