I have this indistinct vision of the type of adults I hope my children will someday become. For starters, I hope they will be kind to themselves when they make mistakes, see things from other’s perspectives, and be able to resolve conflict in a mature and respectful way. However motivating them to this end, can prove tricky. I have fortunately learned a lot through the years by some experimentation with different methods. Out of curiosity, I added up all of my children’s ages to see how many cumulative years I have parented. I was shocked to see it has been a whopping 40 years!
I have created a tool, simply known as “Stamp Jars,” that has stood the test of trial and error for my kids. I have a 13, 10, 8, 5, and 4 year old. Five children with vastly differing personalities, and yet it has worked for all of them.
Here is how it works:
- Each child has their own personal jar. I keep ours on our back door. (I have included the printable)
- A stamp can be given for any behavior that you, the mother, deem stamp-worthy. Any behavior that is above and beyond what you would normally require of your child. Perhaps you have a character trait that you are working on, that works too! The list of ways to praise your child is endless. (I use markers with little stamp designs on the end.) They choose which marker they want to use at the time.
Here are some of the ideas of what I give stamps for:
- acts of kindness
- going out of your way to help someone else
- offering to do a chore
- doing what is asked, without complaining
- picking up toys without being asked
- regulating yourself when you are angry
- You can never, ever, under any circumstance, use the stamp jar as a punishment. In other words, you can never take a stamp away. Once it is earned, it is there forever.
- When the child earns 25 stamps in their jar, they get to do something exciting. You will want to give options according to your financial situation and take into consideration the child’s age. My four year old was happy with going for an ice cream sundae; however he wanted mommy AND daddy to come. My eight year old likes a Starbucks frappuccino date with mama. Who could blame her for that one!? My ten year old once scored a date with dad to Ninja Quest, and my thirteen year old grabbed an Avenger movie, etc. Some rewards may cost more time and some more money. It really depends on the child and their personal situation. We made sure to let our kids know if they did get a BIG reward, that that shouldn’t be expected every time. Also, you can give them choices that you are okay with, if they have trouble choosing. Time with you is priceless, and this is what kids want the most, I promise.
The excitement my children get from putting a stamp in their jar is real and tangible. They feel proud of themselves for a job well done. The joy they get from picking out a date and getting to have that special quality time is a gift of lifelong memories. They are thrilled when they get to put up that new empty jar, envisioning it being filled anew with all of their colorful stamps. It’s a testament to everyone that walks by to what a great job they are doing.
My children understand that their self-worth is not in this good behavior system. They know that I love them because they are my babies. Period. Unconditionally. When they behave well and do things get them stamps in their jars, I love them. When they do things that I don’t like at all, I love them. The fact that I love them is true no matter what. And that deep understanding in their heart of hearts, makes all the difference.