jar of kindness

My post a few days ago about speaking kindly to each other got me noticing how rude my children have become with each other lately. Little things like saying, “duh” after someone speaks, telling someone to shut-up, the rolling of the eyes, or generally just not being kind to each other.

And as much I have tried screaming at that them to “BE NICE ALREADY!” It just doesn’t seem to have the desired efect.

And so I have invented the kindness jar.

Jar of Kindness

It is filled with candy. Everytime someone is rude or nasty to someone else, I take a candy out of the jar. If I catch them being spontaneously nice to each other with no thought of their own gain, I’ll put a candy back in the jar.

At the end of the day I divide whatever candy is remaining up among the children.

The back of the jar has a little tag that says: Because you can never be TOO NICE.

A few years ago I did something similar for behavior modification, but all the children had their own little jar. It worked okay for awhile but was one of those things that fall by the wayside once the good behavior has become a habit. And really that is the long term goal, making the positive behavior a habit that doesn’t need any external reward or motivator.

This time I decided that we needed a collective jar because I want them to be kind to each other as a team. I don’t want one person provoking another person when I am not around to hear. I don’t want to hear tattling about so and so being mean. I want them to both be kind and inspire kindness in each other. I want them to be nice in words and deeds.

If one person is having a bad day I want them to begin thinking about how they can help that person have a better day. I want them to think about what kindness can they show that person that will inspire kindness in return. Kindness begets kindness, afterall.

Will it work? I have faith in my children. I believe they want to be nice. Sometimes I think they forget this and get wrapped up in their own selfishness. Isn’t that why the Random Acts of Kindness movement worked so well? Putting a little kindness out into the world inspires others to do the same. And so we are starting small, in our own house, and hopefully it will radiate our from here.

If not, I’ll be hiding in the pantry, eating my way through a 5 pound bag of Skittles.

25 Responses to “jar of kindness”

  1. Notes from the Trenches » Jar of what??? Says:

    [...] If I fall into a sugar coma in the next few days, this will be why. Posted on September 6, 2006 by Chris @ 10:17 am   [...]

  2. lorianne Says:

    Great idea….but I’m not so sure about the candy aspect of it. Frankly, it is sooo bad for their teeth and the more sugar they eat…the more they seem to crave it. Also, the sugar high will probably result in some “unkind” behaviour. Not sure what a good substitute would be…maybe use the candies as counters and then give each one a value….5 cents maybe. This could then be split between the kids. Or entered into a ledger for the next shopping trip. Sadly, you will still have that 5lb bag of Skittles to deal with though.
    I always enjoy your blog. Your writing skills just draw a person into your world. Quite the gift.

  3. Karmyn R Says:

    May I suggest putting some candy in there that you find unapealing. If that is at all possible…..for me, it would be licorice! (of course, I’m not too hip on skittles either) And as long as the kids like it - then you can sneak into the cupboard and eat what we REALLY like - chocolate!

  4. Finelly Says:

    I love that idea! I think I’ll steal it.
    I may tweak it a bit to help my son become more apt to sharing. He is three…whattaya think? Will it work?
    Any suggestions?

  5. Sheryl Says:

    Those are the Skittles sweetened with organic can juice, with no artificial coloring, right? ;o)

    We had this problem a while ago, and sadly I think it was largely because I really wasn’t spending enough time with them. One weekend we wore “Be Kind” badges, but I like the candy idea better.

  6. T in HD Says:

    Clever idea. But I think I’d prefer peanut M&Ms over Skittles (not a Skittle fan myself) and then, if we had a particularly unkind day….mom gets to eat the candy! Bwahahaha

  7. chris Says:

    lorianne and others,

    It really isn’t that much candy inside the jar once you divide it by seven. I counted out 15 skittles each. I plan on working that numnber down as the days go on, but I wanted to make sure that they were somewhat successful. If they never got to taste the candy, they wouldn’t be all the likely to change their behavior.

    I will agree that sugar is bad for your teeth, though not as bad as juice or gatorade which bathes your teeth in a constant stream of sugar all day, or “fruit” snacks, or pretzel, or cookies. Really a small handful of candy isn’t going to ruin their teeth.

    Oh and we have these things called tooth brushes ;-)

  8. Susan Says:

    You’re not kidding, Chris. Fruit snacks are about the worst thing EVER for your teeth! They stick reallllly well and cause lots of cavities. (And same thing you said with juice, not to mention the practically empty calories.) I don’t think 15 Skittles will hurt a thing.

    Great idea!!!

  9. Jen Says:

    I think it’s a great idea! And the thing about the sugar, isn’t it a requirement that circus people are missing half their teeth anyway?

  10. Nicole Says:

    this is a great idea!

  11. Lin Says:

    Jen: ROFL!!! Perfect!

  12. Crisanne Says:

    Great idea. I think I will adapt that for my 4 year old. We’re in one of those phases where the usual punishments are not doing the trick. A little candy now and then won’t do any real harm. The fact is we all need a little incentive now and then. How many adults would keep going to work if they didn’t get that little incentive we call a pay check??

    Chris, thank you for your insights and your real viewpoint. I’m sorry I only just found your blog last week!

  13. Susan Says:

    “This time I decided that we needed a collective jar because I want them to be kind to each other as a team.”

    I love that; I think that’s so important. My four-year-old’s preschool teacher does a version of this at school (no candy, if anyone is worried!) and my son has already gotten the idea that he and his friends will sink or swim together. He talks about how to help his friends remember the rules and how he is doing his best to follow the rules so that EVERYONE can have a reward.

    What I like the most, though, is how happy he is at school, and I really think it’s because of the emphasis on being a community of kindness.

  14. lorianne Says:

    And RAISINS…the sucrose in those little puppies stick to teeth big time. Really the best thing is to brush after snacks. And yes, milk, juice, gummies, etc. are all so bad. I just don’t buy the stuff (well, milk but that is just for mealtimes and they brush). If it isn’t in the house, they can’t bug me for it. Well, they can…but to what end? Grocery shopping was tough until I let them choose a magazine or book instead. Sneaky Mama. (though poorer…those mags aren’t cheap). Besides…if there were cookies in the house…I’d eat them and I don’t mean 1 or 10, I mean ALL. I have LOTS of will power in the grocery aisle…NONE at home.

  15. InterstellarLass Says:

    Well, after they eat the candy, there could be a lesson in toothbrushing, especially for the younger kids. And I don’t think a few Skittles are going to push them over the edge. Super Nanny had a “trash talk” plan to curb a brood of 7 from their cussing. Yes, the two year old was using curse words. Their mother must have been so proud.

  16. T in HD Says:

    Don’t most kids have to brush their teeth before bed anyway? I’d love to say my kids never eat any candy but that just ain’t true. A few skittles or M&Ms before they brush their teeth for bed time isn’t going to hurt them.

  17. Christina Says:

    This is similar to something my parents used to implement on our long (5 days) car trips from Montana to New Jersey to visit family, it was a community can that started out with a certain amount of money in it (probably like $20, enough for a pizza or something), whenever someone was not nice money was taken out of the can but if we were nice money was put back into the can. At the end of each day if we had a certain amount in the can we could go out for pizza and ice cream instead of just another boring diner dinner, or whatever we kids really wanted to do. Kept some sanity for the long summer trips but only came into play once a year as we hardly ever ate out! I love the nice jar with candy idea, we may be starting one this weekend. The only problem is, will I eat all of the candy by the end of the day???

  18. GraceD Says:

    Ah! So this is what the jar is about Brilliant.

    And, hey, it has to be sugar. What else would be worth it? Tofu jelly beans? Bah. Sugar. Then brushing and flossing immediately thereafter.

    I’m trying to translate this into a collective incentive for adults and the only thing I can think of is a vacation. Everyone’s kind, we go to Vegas. Everyone’s not kind, we go nowhere. Or, worse, go to Fargo North Dakota. In the winter.

    I still think a household would be well served with a Bottle of Bitchiness, as I mentioned on your flickr pic. Mom takes a shot if the kids are acting up. More shots if they continue. Inebriation results in supreme bitchiness and all will cower and quake.

    Okay, I’ll shut up now.


  19. cheeriobutt Says:

    Whoa! What’s this obsession against candy???? Is everyone out there really that dedicated to the “only natural health food” craze? Because when I look around I see tons of kids’ diets consisting of only soda and cheeseburgers! Wow! Maybe I live in a strange land! Well I loved the idea because if I want my kids to do something, there is no way to get them to do it, even offering money! but candy? oh yeah! They are soo there! Ha! Great idea.

  20. gotta love motherhood Says:

    I just happened on your blog. I am from a family of 9 and we were all homeschooled. It is so refreshing to see a mom raising her kids how she feels deep in her heart without being presured by today’s society.
    As a new mom of 2 I need all the input I can get. You are my homepage.

  21. personalchefto2 Says:

    I must agree, cheeriobutt (love your name, btw) … all this talk about the evils of candy is making me laugh and shake my head. Unless you you grow and make all your own food, IMO, you can not be sure it’s truly “healthy”.

    And plus, have you ever seen a child that is deprived of candy/desserts and then it’s offered to them at a party or at someone’s house? Most do not have the ability to know when to stop eating the junk. And that, IMO, is much worse than letting children enjoy their snacks

    Everything in moderation is my motto! Love the jar idea, Chris!

  22. Julie Says:

    Great idea! We just started jars for the kids with “good job” points to catch the in any sort of nice behavior. An M&M goes in each time and they eat them at the end of the day. The affect has been great already. When those habits are set I’m going to move on to the be nice jar!

  23. Andrea Q Says:

    I’m curious what you think about Alfie Kohn and his book “Punished by Rewards?” Have you written about that before? Maybe at your other blog?

  24. jody2ms Says:

    Great idea! Cody would have it filled in a heartbeat!

    I would be sneaking candy from it though…..

  25. Mel Says:

    My parents set up a system like this when I was a kid to get me to do chores. My experience was that rather than feeling motivated, I felt disheartened and that I was constantly being judged. (I also never got the promised reward, having consistently depleted the “jar” before reward time.)

    I’d also be interested in your response to Alfie Kohn’s persepctive on reward systems, which he discusses in “Punished By Rewards” and “Unconditional Parenting” (which is also available as a DVD).