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Don't Lose Your Marbles, Save Them - The Secret...

Yes, pick up a bag of marbles from eBay or the local hobby store and put them in a safe place. (Marbles may be a little more expensive than expected at about $5 a bag, but that becomes chump change when they become your new family currency.) Let me explain…

With four kids under age 10 in the house, my husband and I quickly discovered that the chances of all four being on their best behavior at the same time was, let’s just say, slim. Sure, everyone is entitled to a bad day, but when there are six people in the family and everyone gets one bad day it starts to look an awful lot like a whole week.

We had to do something. Immediately. We completely changed the dynamic of our family with a bag of marbles and 3 easy steps. Here’s what to do:

1. Figure out what is important to your kids today. This is anything besides sleeping and breathing that they enjoy doing. You will want to write this down somewhere. (Family mealtime or travel time in the car is a great time to get the dialogue going).

2. Take your list and ascribe a marble value to each activity.

For example:

Invite a friend over = 2 marbles

Have a snack = 3 marbles

Go to the park = 4 marbles

An hour of Xbox = 5 marbles

Hint: We tended to ascribe higher values to activities that were especially valuable to the kids, or required more sacrifice on our part.

Ditch Dinner Pass (Have a bowl of cereal instead) =10 marbles

One on one date with a parent = 30 marbles

3. Give each kid an empty jar with their name on it, and share the activity list. Explain how much you love it when your children behave well. You want to reward their good behavior, and will hand out a marble for their jar whenever you catch them being wonderful.

Children are smart! They quickly figure out that the quality of their lives is now entirely tied to their behavior.

Good behavior = Marbles = Privileges.

Bad behavior = Empty Jar = Back to a schedule of sleeping and breathing only. “Oh, bummer sweetie. I’m sure you’ll earn some marbles soon.”

Note: Temporary rebellion against the system is normal, since children are not typically used to having to “earn” their privileges, but this is quickly replaced with mutual excitement as your kids learn how much more control they have over their choices when they behave well - A lesson that will serve them well in “the real world”!  Also, observe how quickly your children will learn to delay short term gratification in order to earn and save for things of greater value.

Benefits for parents:

*No more Mr. & Mrs. Bad Guy. The children’s behavior determines their consequences.

*They system grows with the children, you simply change the items on the list as their interests change, you will find the kids requesting that items be added. You will need to fine tune the list every so often.

There was an empty jar day in my family when one of my sons insisted it was fine to have an empty jar because all he wanted to do at the moment was be alone and in his room anyhow!  I quickly apologized to my son, because I had noticed he enjoyed retreating to his room lately and I hadn’t had the chance to add it to the marble list... until just now. What do you think? 5 marbles? “Oh, bummer sweetie. I’m sure you’ll earn some marbles soon.  Go ahead and have a seat on the couch. Okay, the floor is fine too. Or, better yet, why don’t you help your sister match those socks - looks like you could use a marble.”

You get the picture. Enjoy!

I really like this idea! I'd heard of it, but didn't try implementing it until I read your suggestions. It's so simple and it seems to be working well for my daughter. Thanks!
Michele B.
Thank you for reminding me of this system! We use "tickets", which the children picked their favorite color and made their own 1" x 4" tickets. The first few days we brought it back, their ticket jars remained empty or had "I Owe You" tickets in them. Now they're filling up. And we actually made it out the door to school this morning without 1 fight!!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!
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