In the article Positive Parenting Program: The Jar of Consequences  you were introduced to the concept of using The Jar of Consequences to reinforce positive behaviors and diminish negative behaviors in children. Here you will be provided instructions on how to use The Jar of consequences. 

The Jar of Consequences is designed to help parents, not only consequence negative behaviors, but reward positive behaviors as well. Is rewarding kids for positive behavior bribery? Bribery is when you provide a positive consequence to stop an inappropriate behavior. Whereas, positive reinforcement is when someone receives a positive consequence following a positive behavior. We all receive rewards for doing things well at home and on the job. Our pay check, bonus or incentive and even a simple “good job” are examples of rewards adults receive. These rewards tend to reinforce the behaviors for which they were received.  

With The Jar of Consequences, positive consequences are in the form of no cost or low cost rewards. Sometimes the most powerful reward can be praise or just spending time with your child. Negative consequences are in the form of common household chores.  

The Jar of Consequences removes the parent from having to come up with a consequence in the “heat of the moment” and reminds them of the need to consequence positive behaviors too. Children are less likely to see their parents as the bad guys and more likely to look at their own mistakes when they have to choose a consequence as opposed to having one imposed on them by their parents. We can even show empathy for them when they choose a consequence we know they dislike, “Oh man,  that is tough luck. I know how much you hate doing the dishes. Better luck next time bud.” This puts the parent on their side. The only one they can be upset with is themselves. 

With this approach parents win both ways. If kids misbehave, they get extra chores done around the house. If they do well, mom or dad gets to give them simple things they like or spend time with them.

How to use The Jar of Consequences: 

It is helpful to involve your children in deciding which consequences to use, as this will promote a higher level of “buy in” to the program. You will be surprised at how enthused most children are about simple rewards for good behaviors. They may be less enthused about extra work for not so good behavior. It is also most effective if both parents are involved in using the program. When you have identified and decided on the appropriate consequences to use, write all negative consequences (extra chores) on one color of the cardstock slips and all positive consequences (rewards) on the other color. Feel free to add your own unique consequences that fit your family’s situation or circumstances. Fold the slips up and place them in the jar.  

Place the Jar of Consequences some place where your children can easily see it. Its mere presence may produce a positive effect in your home environment.  

Explain to your children that you are going to try this new approach to help them behave in ways that please you, as well as help them stop behaviors that are inappropriate. Explain that they will be able to pull a positive consequence from the jar when you notice them behaving in positive ways and a negative consequence from the jar when they misbehave or fail to meet your expectations. If they agree to participate, it needs to be clearly understood that they will be expected to take the good with the bad. That is, if they agree to accept the rewards, then they also need to accept the negative consequences without a hassle.  

Now you are ready to put it to work. You need to decide which specific behaviors you want to target. Perhaps it is whining, talking back, fighting with siblings, not accepting “no”, lying, arguing, failing to complete a task, hitting etc. Start out with one or two because anymore than that may be overwhelming. You may want to consider giving a positive consequence when one of the behaviors mentioned above could have occurred but did not. Inform your children which behaviors you will be using The Jar of Consequences on to help them change.  

When you decide they need to receive a consequence be sure to pair the behavior with receiving the consequence. Something like, “I love it when you do your chores without having to be reminded Sara. That is what I call being responsible. You need to go and get a reward from The Jar of Consequences.” It is not necessary to give them a reward every time they do something positive. Rather, use them to establish a behavior then replace with verbal praise and encouragement.  

How might it play out for lying? If you are targeting lying and you catch Johnny in a lie; it may go something like this.  In a matter of fact like way, Johnny’s mother might say, “ Johnny remember when I asked you if you had your homework done and you said you did. That was not the truth. I found your incomplete math sheet in your book bag. You need to go grab a consequence from the Jar and then I expect your math sheet to be finished. Now lets go get that consequence and see how you fair.”  

How about when Johnny could have lied, but chose to tell the truth instead? Reward the behavior you want to see continue. Remember, that which is rewarded gets repeated. We get more mileage out of this than we do negative consequences for misbehavior. It may sound something like: “Johnny, when I asked you if your homework was finished and you told me it wasn’t, it would have been real easy to lie and tell me it was. I appreciate you telling me the truth. You should be proud of yourself. Why don’t you go and grab yourself a reward from the Jar.” Occasionally, you may want to reward your child for behaviors where they display their values or virtues. For example: serving others, being kind, being honest or sharing are just a few you can recognize. Other times a simple “that was really nice, you should be proud of yourself” is sufficient. Over time, we want our children to develop their own internal motivation for engaging in such acts.  

If you are unable to deliver the reward your child picks from the Jar immediately, simply have them hang on to it, so they can use it at a later date. After it has been “redeemed” you can return it to the Jar or set it aside until the Jar has been emptied. If your child picks a negative consequence and it happens to be the dishes, but the dishes were recently completed. You will need to have them turn the slip over to you so you can see to it that it is completed in the near future.  

The most important thing to remember when using The Jar of Consequences is to be consistent. Don't let their misbehavior slide even one time. If you are not consistent, it motivates them to test you, to see if you will let it slide the next time. By the same token, if you never notice the positive things your children do, they may develop an attitude of “why even bother.” So, always always notice their positive behaviors.