How many times have you hollered at your kids, “Shut the door!” The summer was just starting and already I was tired of saying it. Tired of the heat. Tired of the flies. The problem was a problem of knowledge. Each one of my children, even the three-year-old, knows how to physically shut the door. It wasn’t a problem of understanding. They all understand that when we leave the door open bugs come in and it costs money. Yet this knowledge alone was not enough to change their behavior. The problem was simply one of habit. They were not in the habit of closing the doors. And no amount of nagging or yelling or passive aggressive shaming would change that habit.
So it was time to come up with a plan.
I found two glasses that were exactly the same size. Then I found some decorative marbles and wrote “home” on one and “Bruester’s” on the other one with a glass marker. When we started all of the marbles were in the “Home” jar because we weren’t going anywhere until they had shown that they could SHUT THE DOOR! Whenever one of them closed the door, they moved a pebble (“fruity pebbles” as Hope called them) to the “Bruester’s” jar. If Andrew or I closed the door, we moved a pebble from the “Bruester’s” jar to the “Home” jar. When all of the pebbles were moved into the “Bruester’s” jar, we would go out for ice cream.
In the weeks that followed, they worked together to close doors and reminded me to move pebbles for them as they went out. Sometimes they even closed a door for someone else when they forgot! Sometimes I closed a door and would announce, “I’m closing the door. I get a pebble!” No shame, no yelling, no nagging. Just moving pebbles. They started paying attention and developing new habits. Even the three-year-old began to understand.
Then a few weeks later, the last pebble was moved from the “Home” jar to the “Bruester’s” jar. So off we went for ice cream.
In the picture, Kyle, Connor, Joey and Hope. (Joey isn’t mine; he’s borrowed. And Faith wouldn’t sit still for the picture.)
We all had fun (even though Hope doesn’t look happy in the picture) and the kids wanted to move the pebbles back and start over. But now I’m thinking the next jar is going to be “Sweet Cici’s” for using “Patton polites.” After all, I want my kids to be sweet!