The Gem Jar

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Many of my readers are familiar with 007 my spirited, loving, creative eight-year-old helper. He is such a joy in our lives. Recently, 007 was diagnosed with ADHD. During a meeting with the school counselor, I asked for strategies to help 007 learn to be more self-governing. I knew this smart little guy would make good behavior choices if he could just remember just what they were. She directed me to Pinterest (ha!) to read some ideas about self monitoring.

That’s where we found this article that helped immensely. I can honestly say that our house is a more peaceful one because of our Gem Jar. I know there are a lot of parents who have difficulty with an “incentive based system” and that’s okay. This is what works for my family, for my kid right now. 😉

Before we introduced the jar, we took a few days to learn about the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22 and printed out this cute poster. We talked about how when fruit is squeezed, you find out what is inside, like us and our character. What character we have inside comes out. Then, we asked some questions, tough ones:  What kind of character do we have? What do we want to be like? What fruit of the spirit is difficult for us sometimes? So, how can we work on it?

Enter: The Gem Jar.

the jar

It helps us to focus on the areas that 007 identified as a difficult: self control and patience.

The concept is simply, really: reinforce good behavior until good behavior is the norm. Each time 007 performs a desired behavior, he receives a gem to put in his jar. After the jar is filled to an agreed upon height, a prize will be given. (ie. A trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, having a friend over for a day, going to Sky Zone or an indoor pool. Notice they are experience based rewards and not thing-based.)

As he plunks the gem in there, he tells us why he’s receiving his reward. For example: “I got a gem because I didn’t complain about doing four pages of handwriting” or “I got a gem because I waited for Mom to be done with her phone conversation before I asked a question” or (my favorite from this week) “I’m getting a gem because I recognized that I have more than one parent and I can ask Daddy questions too.” 😉

Little by little we saw great improvement in 007’s behavior and it wasn’t because I was doing time outs or yelling at him, it was because he was recognizing his own behavior and monitoring it himself.

We did lay some ground rules, though (in case you’re wondering)

  • Once you receive a gem, it’s yours. Nobody takes it out. That great moment is frozen in time.
  • You can’t ask for a gem or draw attention to your goodness to get a gem. That will result in no gem earned.

The whole family loves this system. Sometimes, when Cat does something sweet for 007, he’ll go get her a gem, even though she doesn’t have a jar, just to show her that he noticed.

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control: they are gems in our jars, friends.