I got this idea from Jac's incoming Kindergarten teacher. I have learned that teachers are very wise people, amazing how much they know about kids just by being around them! (I say that with my tongue totally stuck in my cheek.) She had mentioned that the class would get a prize or treat when a jar of marbles got filled up. The only way to fill up the jar was to exhibit a behavior that showed one of the school mantras. Cooperation, Kindness, Safety, Responsibility, and Respect. As the teacher spied one of these behaviors in a student they would get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar was filled they all got a treat of some sort, so it was a group effort.
Soooo, I decided to start a cotton ball jar. I was going to use something more tangible but then I was talking to one of my friends and she said, or you could just use cotton balls. I liked this because I actually had them in the house and could start the experiement immediately.
I was prepping the kids one night before bed and told them about the jar. My spin on it was that they would get to put a cotton ball in the jar if they did something pleasing to God. That left it wide open. Basically, anytime I caught them being good, in goes a cotton ball.
Now for the rest of the story. The last few months we have seen Jac go from a kid who is scared of the dark, to a kid who literally can't be alone. He is afraid of monsters getting him in broad daylight sitting in the kitchen, if he is alone. There are several reasons that I need to help him get a handle on this. One, it is just sad to be so terrified of something. Two, it is annoying, just as he is gaining independence he is limiting himself in that independence. Three, logistically if this is still going on in the fall, I just won't be able to always be there with an infant. We have to figure this out over the summer or else there will be a lot of tears come November 17th when this child comes out!
While I am telling them about the cotton balls, I give examples of behaviors that will be rewarded. Kindness, gentleness, patience, generosity and in a moment of mommy revelation I slip in bravery. I give examples of what these mean. Jac asks, "What's being brave?" I told him that being alone or in the dark would be examples of being brave. His exact words that tore a small hole in my hear, "I'll never get one for being brave." My little cowardly lion, I felt so bad for him, but sort of let it drop and just hugged him.
Fast forward a couple of days when I got my act together and found the cotton balls. Mia said something out of the blue while they were coloring, clearly impressed with Jac's coloring prowess, "Jac you are really good at coloring." Awwwwww. Cotton ball! Then later she gave Jac a toy he wanted that she was playing with. Cotton ball! Well Jac of course wanted in on the action. We were all in the living room after dinner and Jac wanted something in the kitchen, I saw a light bulb go on and instead of whining and crying he ran in and got what it was and ran back with the devil chasing him; but excited. I get a cotton ball! I was brave!
Why, yes you do little boy. He proceeded to practice going into rooms by himself and rewarding himself with cotton balls all evening. It was one of those breakthrough moments. I know it isn't solved, but what a huge step. At least I figured out a way to coerce without any threats and God forbid humiliation. He was proud of himself and so was I.