The Chip Jar: The Secret to Enforcing Positive Kid Behavior

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Before I even get into the magic of the “chip jar” and what it has done for my kids’ behavior, I have to give ALL of the credit to my friend Kristen (hey, buddy!) This was all her idea and she taught me everything I know about working the Chip Jar and introducing it to my kids, who are ages four and five.

Okay, here we go. The Chip Jar. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that implementing chip jars for my kids changed their behavior for the better. A LOT. The basic idea is that you are rewarding kids for their positive behavior, in order to encourage them to repeat that behavior. Every time you see a behavior that you like out of your kid, you reward them by putting a chip in their jar. Once their jar is full, they receive a reward. 

In our house, we used a mason jar for each kid and poker chips. You of course can use whatever jar filler that you like, but with kids who are obsessed with the colors red and blue respectively, poker chips worked perfectly. I also think that using a glass jar was beneficial for a couple of reasons. They can see the chips filling up the jar and there is something about that chip hitting the glass that makes a sound that just elicits excitement. The jars are at their eye level, but they are not allowed to put the chips in their jar (even when they earn them) – that’s mom and dad’s job.

The chip jar can be used for bribery (“if you put your toys away, you’ll earn a chip”) but it can also be used to reinforce positive behavior you are witnessing. A few ways I’ve rewarded my kids without using bribery:

“I love the way you just shared with your brother. I’m putting a chip in your jar!”

“Boys, thank you so much for putting your dirty clothes in your hamper. You both earn a chip!”

“I just saw how you got ready for bed on your own without me telling you. I’m going to put a chip in your jar because you did such a good job.”

Here’s what you CANNOT DO: No matter how bad your kid is behaving, you are not allowed to remove a chip from their jar. Once they’ve earned it, it’s theirs.

I am telling you – before I started the chip jars with my kids, night time was a nightmare. They cried about who was getting tucked in first, they cried about going to bed, they stalled, they got out of bed, etc. Once I started rewarding them for staying in their bed, not crying about who was being tucked in first, those bedtime issues disappeared. I haven’t rewarded them for their bedtime behavior in probably five months. They just automatically do what they are supposed to now. 

It takes my kids about a month (maybe?) to fill up a jar. I don’t reward them for everything I see, and now that we’ve used the jars for half a year, I don’t need to resort to them as much. Since I actually only have to give out a reward about once a month, I have let my kids pick what they want for a reward, but of course, this is up to you. They have earned donuts for breakfast, a new toy, and a new stuffed animal. My friend’s kid earns outings. Whatever is going to motivate your child! 

My kids are far from perfect, but so much of their behavior has improved since I started recognizing the things they are doing RIGHT, instead of just pointing out what is wrong. I hope this helps you too! And thanks, Kristen 🙂

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