“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” – Oscar Wilde
The Marble System is a reward system where kids are asked to do three daily tasks, receiving a marble for each one. At the end of the day, the child can get a reward for completing the tasks. The Marble System is a fast, effective way to change the dynamic in the home from negative to positive.
How to Implement:
Step 1: Set up the Marble System
Buy a small, clear jar for each of your children. It is best if all of your children participate in the Marble System, not just the child that’s causing the disruption. Then, buy a bag of marbles, enough for each of your children to be able to put 10+ marbles inside their jar. Now, choose 3 tasks that you would like your children to do each day. The tasks need to be concrete and measurable so that there can be no argument about whether they were performed or not. For example, “brushing teeth” is a concrete task, whereas “being nice” is not. “Being nice” is too vague and provides an opening for an argument, so it will not be effective. The tasks can be the same or different for each child, just as long as each child is assigned one easy task, one moderate task, and one difficult task. This allows your child to have immediate success rather than feeling a sense of failure, as well as being challenged. Talk with your spouse about the tasks and agree to be on the same page. Consistency is crucial to the Marble System being effective.
STEP 2: Introduce it to Your Kids
Introduce the Marble System when things are going well. When your kids are in a positive place and everyone is getting along, explain that you are starting a new reward system. It’s important to show your enthusiasm during this time and to refrain from saying anything negative about their past behavior. This should be a time of excitement, not of blaming or judging. Using poster board (or something similar), explain the 3 daily tasks each child needs to do in order to receive a marble. Be specific and make sure each child fully understands what is expected of them. Then give a start date that is within three days of when you explain the system so that your kids don’t lose momentum. On the start date, show lots of enthusiasm and after each task is done, allow each child to place one marble in the jar on their own (this empowers children and removes you from being the middle-man). If your child shows resistance, encourage him by saying, “I really want you to get a marble for brushing your teeth,” instead of saying, “If you don’t brush your teeth, you won’t get a marble.” At the end of each day, your kids can either cash in their marbles for a daily treat (such as extra computer time) or they can save their marbles for something larger. When and how they cash in their marbles is not as important as investing in the process.
Step 3: Make Adjustments
You may need to adjust the tasks, time of day, or the rewards your children receive after implementing the Marble System. You may also find that when the novelty wears off, kids may need more incentive to complete their tasks. If they are angry they might say, “I don’t care if I get a marble,” and on busy days they may even forget to do their tasks. A great way to rebuild the momentum is to randomly give out extra marbles for good behavior. Without giving your kids any advance notice, reward them for doing the right thing. For example, if one child hits another while in the car, when you walk in the door reward the child who got hit for not hitting back. When you walk in the house say, “I’m giving you an extra marble, Adam. I’m very proud of you for not hitting in the car.” You don’t want to add “even though your brother hit you,” as this will likely make your other child angry. Suddenly, the child who got hit has an extra marble for doing the right thing. You can also use extra marbles as an incentive for doing the right thing during difficult times (such as car trips, doctor’s appointments, etc.). Before leaving you can say, “If you sit quietly in the waiting room, you will get an extra marble.” This is especially useful when kids are saving up their marbles for something big.
What you will find:
Just as getting in trouble is addictive, doing the right thing is addictive, too. When kids start making the right choices they end up making the wrong choices less and less. Once the dynamic has shifted, kids will gain enough momentum to make positive changes in all areas of their lives. The Marble System is also a great way for parents to gather the troops and get everyone on the same page. Once your kids are doing the right thing, you can get a better idea of what is going on with your anxious child. You can get a better sense of his anxiety and how his siblings are feeding into it. When there is chaos, this is not possible. When the Marble System is in place and things are running smoothly, you can address the issues you weren’t able to address before.
For more effective, practical parenting tools discover Why Smart Kids Worry.