We introduced Maddy, Owen, and Cora to gem jars about two years ago, and it was perfect way to monitor–and manage–behavior for our family for a good long time. Gem Jars play on positive behavior; instead reacting to our kids’ negative behavior by yelling, screaming, crying, or punishing–gem jars require a major shift in focus.
Instead, we rewarded positive behavior. And it was great for our then 6, 4, and 3 year olds.
We threw a gem in a person’s jar any time we ‘caught’ Maddy, Owen, or Cora:
- playing nicely with pets
- being first-time listeners
- sharing toys
- keeping a clean room
- brushing teeth and washing face without being asked
- flushing toilet and washing hands with soap without being asked (gulp)
- using good manners
- waiting patiently to talk and not interrupting others
- being extra kind and loving toward each other
- telling the truth
- saying “I’m sorry” without being asked
- being extra helpful to others. . . you name it.
The idea is that the rewarding, noticing, validating of positive behavior will make that behavior the natural choice. And in time, it will become one big, happy habit. A perpetual Nicefest.
But as the kids got older and we knew we were ready to welcome a weekly allowance into the mix, my husband and I brainstormed, chatted, and thought our way through adopting a system we knew worked–gem jars–but using it in a new and improved way.
our Gem Jars 2.0
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Gem Jars 2.0: Maddy, Owen, and Cora have been asking for an allowance for months and months now, but my husband and I just couldn’t seem to find a system that worked for us.
We wanted something easy. Seriously. Easy.
This parenting gig is hard enough with homework, down time, cleaning, family time, discipline, friends, school, sports, spouse time, work time, and extra-curricular activities that we knew one more thing could literally send us both over the edge.
And we knew that for a good year and a half the Gem Jars worked wonders for us.
Admittedly, we slowed down on them at the end of last summer because I was working, my husband was working, and we were just. . . plain. . . tired. And in order for things like the Gem Jars to work–like any discipline system–consistency is key. Consistent we were for a good long time, but we were ready for something new.
So we pulled out the old Spend, Save, and Give Jars–a method that we have used for organizing the kids’ money–and we decided to move forward with Gem Jars, 2.0.
I said, Okay, you guys have been waiting for an allowance for months and months and months now, and Dad and I have been trying to figure out the best way of doing allowance for everyone. Finally we think we have a way. We’re going to use Gem Jars. But we’re going to use them in a slightly different way than we have been using them.
We were sitting on the floor in our craft room, with the Gem Jars emptied and the kids’ Spend, Save, and Give jars all around us.
Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to start each week with 20 gems in everyone’s jar. And from here on out, each gem is worth ten cents. So if each gem is worth ten cents and you’ll have twenty gems in your jar, how much money will you have at the beginning of each week?
First, we re-organized the Spend, Save, and Give jars. . .
. . . and then we counted the week’s worth of gems.
Everyone was quiet.
I said, Okay, so everyone find twenty gems from the family gem jar. They lined up twenty gems. And count by 10’s.
Before I finished giving them instructions, Maddy and Owen called out, We’ll have two dollars! We’ll start with two dollars!
My husband went on to explain: Yes, so you’ll automatically earn two dollars each week for doing your jobs around the house–making your bed, keeping your room clean, setting the table, and picking up just like you’re expected to do.
Owen counts his end-of-the-week gems.
Then throughout the week, you’ll have the chance to earn extra gems–by helping Mommy or me, by being especially kind to each other, to doing some extra things we ask you or that we notice you do. And each Sunday night we’ll get back together and we’ll count your gems. And that’s it.
I went on: We’ll divide whatever money you earn for the week into three parts–half you can put in your spend jar, and the other half we’ll divide evenly into your save and give jars.
But here’s the catch: just like our gem jars, you can earn extra gems by doing great things and making good choices, but you can also lose gems by not making good choices. And this time, if you lose gems, you lose your allowance. Make sense?
It did, and they were game.
We decided that just for kicks we’d keep track of how much each person earned–not to make anyone feel bad but just to keep track in case any questions arose down the road. So that’s what we did. We gave each child cold, hard cash for the amount of gems in each person’s jar.
We organized the money they already had in their jars–which had kind of become a mess after being inconsistent with it for a bit of time. We counted the money they had, and we divided it roughly the way we explained above: 50% in spend; 25% in save; 25% in give. Maybe it’s not the best breakdown, but it’s what we decided on for now.
And though we know it is a work in progress–as is much of parenting and teaching–we do hope to stay consistent with this game plan for as long as it works. And when it stops working, we’ll reevaluate and go from there.
the gem jars may look the same. . . but they’re bigger and better
A happy, happy New For Us Friday it was today because we actually took the time to re-vamp something we love and organize something we’ve wanted to for quite some time. I feel good about it, my husband feels good about it, and the kids feel great about it.
I love the idea that we begin the week by assuming the best, most positive outcome: that Maddy, Owen, and Cora will make the right choices and will keep the $2.00 they earn by being cool kids and by doing their expected jobs around the house.
I love that it monitors behavior by giving us the flexibility to reward good–or poor–choices. I love that it works for all three kids, and the kids see a tangible reward for their work. I love that we’re finally revisiting the idea of helping the kids to learn about money and money-saving.
And I love that this system requires no paper, no charting, nothing major. It’s easy. We just need to have cash on hand each Sunday, which isn’t that hard but will definitely be something I need to remember in order to help this whole process work well. I know that.
And for the last few weeks, it’s worked for us. Three cheers for Gem Jars 2.0 and here’s to hoping we have a long and lasting relationship!
Any ideas? Suggestions? Lessons learned or things to share? Please do tell–we need all the help we can get, and I know there are experts out there!!
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