To discipline or not? The marble jar method

 Chantelle Kerr Tue 22 January 13


Parents often experience many difficulties with parenting. Parenting doesn't generally come with an instruction book, so we often have to learn as we go! Depending on the age of the children the challenges parents can experience often differ. Many of these challenges can cause stress within the home environment and impact on the entire family.

Some of the most common complaints from parents are that their children simply don't listen or respond to their orders. More times than not parents find they are continually going over the same issues with their children. Discipline is one of the most important elements of successful parenting. Often many parents fail to implement any form of discipline in the home environment due to fear of having to punish their children.

Discipline is however important for children to learn appropriate behaviours. By effectively disciplining our children we are helping them develop respect for authority, self control and empathy. This can help children function and behave accordingly both in the home environment and within society (school).

An area that many parents often struggle with within the home environment is motivating children to complete chores or tasks. This can be anything from helping to wash the dishes, clean their bedroom or complete their homework. Often parents spend night after night continually struggling with getting their children to undertake these activities.

A proven method found effective in managing difficult and non responsive behaviours such as these is called the 'marble jar method'. This simple yet beneficial method helps children to understand and acquire 'good' behaviours. This method is found most effective with children aged between 4-12 years.

The method involves the use of an empty jar and placing a marble in the jar every time a child shows 'good' behaviour. Using a medium sized jar is best and approx 15 marbles. The aim is to fill the jar with the marbles and once full provide your child with a reward. This reward can be anything from lunch at McDonalds, going to a movie or even buying a toy.

This idea is to reinforce their good behaviours and motivate them to continue with these. Parents and children combined need to sit down and discuss this method together and come up with a list of what warrants good behaviour. It is important that children are aware of why this is being used and the benefits of behaving. This is a simple yet effective parenting strategy to both train and reward appropriate behaviours and benefit the family as a whole!  

Author: Chantelle Kerr is a Registered Psychologist (Assoc MAPS) who provides counselling for children, adolescents and adults in and around the Wollongong/Illawarra area. 


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