When I talked about some plans for my 'Summer Program' - a self-laid plan containing a lot of ideas of self-discipline to get my house and kids whipped into shape over the summer months - one of the biggies for me was bringing back something we attempted awhile back.
Originally - 2 1/2 years ago - we implemented the Marble strategy to encourage good behaviour with our girls, but we found Malia was a bit young for it and it didn't take long before the idea was abandoned. But I resurrected it this year - with a few changes.
When we did it last time, the girls each had a 'happy' jar and a 'sad' jar - and each jar started off with the same amount of marbles. Then throughout the week, based on their behavior, the marbles would be moved back-and-forth from jar to jar. At the end of the week if their 'happy' jar had more marbles than their 'sad' jar, they would get a small treat.
However, this time I'm following Use Your Marbles to do things a bit differently. First of all, instead of starting off with equal marbles in each jar, the girls each started off with 4 marbles in their 'happy' jar and that's it. Throughout the day, the marbles still move around from jar to jar depending on their attitude and behavior. However, rather than waiting till the end of the week to do anything with the marbles, things are evaluated at the end of every day. However many 'happy' marbles they each have at the end of the day get put into a separate jar - their own individual "Reward Jar" (seen in the middle of this picture). Once the marbles are in that Reward Jar, they cannot be taken away from them. They have earned those and they are theirs, no matter what.
Then the next morning, they start over with 4 'happy' marbles again. Once their Reward Jar of collected marbles gets to a certain line, they get a small treat - like 50 cents worth of little candies at our local Co-Op. Once the collected marbles in their Reward jar gets to the 2nd line, they get a bit of a bigger treat from the store (roughly around $3 or so).
One extra thing that we added that wasn't on that website is that we also have them collectively working towards a much bigger prize. Their Reward Jars that they collect marbles in for the small treats are individual. So if Joelle reaches her lines first, she's the only one who gets a prize at that time; Malia has to wait until she reaches her own lines (and vice versa of course). But after their 2nd lines have been reached, before emptying their individual Reward Jars and starting over again, I tally up their combined number of marbles. So far they have 112 combined and once they reach a higher number (we haven't quite decided on it - maybe 300) collectively, they will have earned themselves a much bigger prize to share. This time we have agreed on getting them a new Wii game, but it will change every time.
I like how this system really focuses on good behavior and doesn't dwell on the negative. Not to say there still isn't any focus on the negative behavior. They still get punished - for hitting or talking back or whatever they do that costs them a marble - in the usual way that they were punished before - on top of losing a 'happy' marble. But I like how they have a visual reminder that they need to work on their attitudes. And I love how they get such a feeling of pride for keeping (or earning back) all 4 of their daily 'happy' marbles. It's something for them to work towards, and they definitely feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they've had a good attitude and behavior day.
To be honest, I still haven't entirely worked out the 'kinks' to this system though. The main problem I have with it is that it's not all black-and-white. For example, I know what costs them a 'happy' marble - hitting, talking back, blatant disregard for something we've said, etc. - but what exactly earns one back? Or if they have lost all 4 of their 'happy' marbles for the day by mid-afternoon already...what then? Or if they have managed to keep all of their 'happy' marbles the entire day (it has happened on a very rare occasion)...should they get a bonus marble?
It's also been a bit tricky now over summer when we've been away on weekends. It's hard to keep track over an entire weekend how many 'happy' and 'sad' marbles have gone back-and-forth rather than keeping up with it on a daily basis.
But overall, it has shown to be a good thing for our kids. Some people might be opposed to the idea of rewarding your children with treats & gifts for doing what they should just be doing on their own. But this has proved to be an excellent strategy for our household, and so we're sticking with what works for us.