Posts tagged family life
The Good Stuff Jar: Parenting Ideas
My kids know when I reprimand them that they've done something wrong. But do they know how much good they do? Use a good stuff jar to bring the best out in your family.

My kids know when I reprimand them that they've done something wrong. But do they know how much good they do? Use a good stuff jar to bring the best out in your family.

Parenting is tough stuff. No surprise there.

"Stop teasing your sister."

"Get away from your brother. Can't you two just spend some time apart?"

"Would you please pick up your dirty clothes? All of them."

Dialogue, or I suppose more like monologue, like this happens all the time in our house. As a mom, I feel like it's my job to prevent battles, to maintain some kind of order, and to foster loving relationships. We express a lot of emotions in our house, and I try earnestly to say and to show my children how much I love them.


There are still those times. The witching hours, the frayed nerves, the tight schedules, the incessant teasing. And my parenting focus becomes more "do no harm" rather than "love real big."

One night, after a particularly taxing parenting day, I noticed my daughter, crying softly on her bed (she is typically a dramatic crier, so I knew something was really bothering her). I took a deep breath and went over to sit next to her. "Mommy, I've done so many things wrong today. I don't know what I'm going to do." And in her sincere, seven-year old angst, she looked down with a sigh.

Oh, man. I glanced over at her soft, little hands, and I replayed my commentary to her throughout the day. I had declared nearly a chapter's worth of to do's, reminders, reprimands, declarations, insistences, and warnings.

My kids know when I reprimand them that they've done something wrong. But do they know how much good they do? Use a good stuff jar to bring the best out in your family.

My kids know when I reprimand them that they've done something wrong. But do they know how much good they do? Use a good stuff jar to bring the best out in your family.

But, that's not what hit me (thank God) at that moment. My daughter had done SO many good things that day - from speaking gently to her little brother who needed some assistance with his drawing, to setting the table without being asked, to singing and dancing throughout the house and lightening our moods, to asking her sister how her day was.

Blech. She had forgotten all of that and now felt reduced to her actions that I corrected.

That's not the kind of parent I want to be. That's not the kind of human I want to be.

Because for every mistake or failing, there are at least double if not triple the amount of goodnesses occurring every single day.

Even the rough ones.

I counted.

So working from a very concrete level, where we sometimes need to with ourselves and young children, I developed the Good Stuff jar. It sits right by our front door, near our only staircase, right in the center of our home. My three kids fill it with their goodness. By this I mean, every time they see one another or we see them spreading goodness, they put in a gem (our name for the colorful glass beads). Once the jar is full, we all get to decide on how we want to use this goodness - special time together? something special for someone we know? something for our home?

And I've loved that they are seeing just how GOOD they are.

A few things about the Good Stuff jar:

  • It's not a behavior system. It has not eliminated poor choices or bad behavior in our family. It wasn't intended to do so.
  • It's used only to show goodness. We don't take beads out when the teasing starts up or the hitting ensues. The Good Stuff jar is not a score-keeping tool.
  • It's an all-for-one that when the 5-year old is kind, we all benefit (because we really do), and if he does great things ten times today and the 10-year old is in a mood and feeling like she needs her time away, than it's all good. No one "wins" for having the most gems in the jar.
  • The celebration for a full jar of goodness is decided as a family and enjoyed as a family.

But it has made all of us (me included) aware of all the many, many ways children are sweet, humble, generous, and delightful. I need to remember that and celebrate that. And I want my children to see it in themselves and all the other people they encounter.

Because that's just the kind of parent I want to be. And that's exactly the kind of human I want to be.

Would you consider a Good Stuff jar at your house?

xoxo, MJ

Living in every room

Some days I get on these thought trains.

  • The ones where I dream of having an incredible house like Soandso. Oh, how amazing it would be to walk in the front door and have all that open space. And that fireplace.
  • The ones where I envision a sunroom, and a deck, and a patio, and a pool...and a studio all added on to the back of our house. How awesome it would be to live with that space added.
  • The ones where I wish we had a larger garage to store more and a a wrap around deck with that porch swing...and to have a lake house like Soandso. Or that vacation home.

Dreaming and working towards goals is incredibly motivational and wonderful. That's not so much where my thought trains take me.

They lead me to Station Disappointment and Dissatisfaction. I have an incredible imagination and 99% of my life it has served as an amazing blessing.



I let it move me to an unsettlement with the goodness around me. Maybe if I'm dissatisfied, I'll get more.

I have a wonderful home (gigantic by world standards) that functions well, fits all of its people and some fish and two cars, and just about anything we want to do as individuals or as a family.

This post is not about my house - how big, how small, how lovely, or how ugly it might be. It's about appreciating what I have, what we have. Some data shows that we, as Americans, are in top 1% of the wealthiest people on the planet.

So, this is about me moving from an imagination - a thought train - of needing more, or at least different, to one of appreciation and gratitude. I'm shedding away some of the old practices and bringing in the new.

I'm challenging myself to a simple task this year (and beyond). Giving myself a little kick in the imagination pants. I have 16 rooms in my house (counting bathrooms, laundry room, mudroom, etc.), and I don't really live in them all. I've been making this effort, slowly, over the last two years, to

  • Declutter
  • Reduce
  • Create space for new imaginations

We've changed our never-lived-in living room to an art room that gets daily use for piano practice and crafting. We've reduced the amount of stuff we have in storage to make room for things we love and want to keep.

But there's still more to do. Before I feel the twinge of jealousy (or at least immediately after), I'm challenging myself to see my own spaces (all 16 of them + garage) with fresh eyes and a sense of gratitude.

Do you live in all your rooms? Maybe it's a hangover from college/apartment life where I functioned from 3-4 rooms....

Want to challenge yourself, too?


PS. Check out Dagmar's list of ideas for kids spaces. I bet you and I could change just a few things to make our children's bedrooms and play spaces feel a bit more creative.