The arrival of summer is somewhat bittersweet for me. I am stoked to have my kids home, and I love having a relaxed schedule. But I also know that the lack of structure, combined with the extreme amount of time my kids will be spending together, will mean they are going to be ready to kill each other about three days in. And if I’m being honest, I might want to get in on that action too.
For some families, summer camp is the answer to this dilemma. But if you’re like me and do not send your kids to summer camp more than a week or two here and there, you need some type of plan to help maintain peace and sanity. This year I got smart and actually planned ahead! I also reminded myself that before I had kids I was a teacher and was an expert at managing 20 kids at a time. Four should be no problem!
So I reached into my teacher tool kit and prepared three new things to help us survive the summer – adventure scouts, summer centers, and behavior buttons. This post will focus on behavior buttons, and the others will be coming soon in future posts so stay tuned!
My thoughts on behavior management
Now before I go into detail on how behavior buttons work, let me just make a few disclaimers. Yes, I am aware that a behavior management strategy based entirely on rewards does not address the heart of the matter and may condition my children to only act in a certain way to earn a reward. However, I also think it is important to make kids aware of their behavior and help them notice any bad habits that may have developed. Using a short-term system like this will allow them to recognize loving words and actions in themselves and in each other, and remind them of my behavior expectations. Also, it’s summer and we all know that chaos is going to ensue if we don’t do something stop it.
I am always telling my kids to show love to other people – especially to each other.
Lately I have been realizing that they might not know exactly what that phrase means aside from the obvious things like sharing, giving hugs, and being kind. Immediately the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 came to mind – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” I don’t know about you, but these are all areas that my kids struggle with, and so do I!
I decided to take this verse and make it the focus of my positive behavior system. Each week we are going to take one aspect of love and really work on it. This week is patience! Next week will be kindness, then jealousy, and so on. (Obviously you don’t have to use this verse if it doesn’t work for you, you could choose anything that you want your kids to work on and make that your focus for the week.)
How the system works
Each one of my kids has a mason jar with their initial on it. I used a silhouette machine to make mine, but you could also use a permanent marker or just tie different colored ribbons around the mouth of the jar. Their goal is to earn buttons for their jar. I chose to use buttons because I have an entire shoebox full of them, but you could use beads, beans, coins, or anything else you have on hand. I also have a chalkboard frame that has been sitting blank for months, so I wrote “Love is Patient” on it and placed it by the jars.
At the beginning of the week I put 10 buttons in each jar. This is my gift to them because I love them, and it represents the gift of grace God gives us. Throughout the week when I see them being patient I praise them for it and add a button to their jar. They are not allowed to ask me for a button, but if they notice one of their siblings being patient when I am not around they can come tell me why they think their sibling deserves one. On the flip side, if they are impatient then they lose a button. And if they are impatient with a sibling, they have to give their button to that sibling.
The rewards and results
At the end of the week they can use their buttons to “buy” things from me! They can cash them in for extra screen time, treasure box, candy, a special activity, a free chore pass, later bedtime, or anything else I think of this summer! Then we start over again the next week with 10 more buttons and a new focus.
I have already seen my kids making a real effort to be patient with each other. They are not interrupting, there is minimal complaining and repetitive asking when they have to wait, and the tone of voice they have been using with each other is pleasant and not full of frustration. I am hopeful that by the end of the summer we will all have survived, my kids will still like each other, and they will have a deeper understanding of what it means to love people.