I admit it. I have a tendency to raise my voice. I could blame the fact that I am Italian. But I won’t.
I raise my voice at home when I am upset. More often that I would like – with my daughter and sometimes even with my husband. I grew up in a vocal family. We shouted, but loved. We shouted, but cared. It was what we did. I don’t think raising one’s voice is the worst thing in the world, except when it becomes pervasive and the only mode of communication.
We are not there yet, but I needed to make sure that there was another system in place to help foster positive changes in behavior for my daughter and for me. She is going through a very transitional (and rough) period right now in school and the impact has been far-reaching at home. She has become ultra sensitive and always feels like a victim. These are not easy feelings to deal with, for her or for me as I try to help her navigate these emotional waters. I know that, more important than anything else, I need to help build her capacity to be happy, to be independent, and to be a positive member of any community she is a part of.
We started using the Marble Jar to help us focus on positive reinforcement, to set attainable goals, and to build her own capacity to self monitor her behavior. I started noticing small changes right away. We talked about what it would look like, feel like, and sound like to be appropriate at soccer. What it would look like, feel like, and sound like to use an appropriate tone of voice. We did a lot of talking. And in many ways, I think we have all grown as a family.
Reflecting on our use of the Marble Jar App
I had the opportunity to speak with the Marble Jar App developer, Anna Rosenblum Palmer, about the progress on our jars and how we might tweak things in the future. Anna reminded me of three things that I already knew as a teacher, but it helped to be reminded as a parent:
The Marble Jar is not just about rewards. We are trying to build a positive sense of self in our children, whereby they need to be taught what our expectations look like so they can start to apply those behaviors into all settings of their life.
Using logical incentives that fit the goal you are monitoring is important. Just like logical consequences are important when a child does something that is not acceptable, using incentives that are connected to the desired outcome make things that much more meaningful.
Goals and tasks should be small and therefore easy to reach. Our two jars were too big. Although my daughter did achieve one of her jars, and we are only six marbles away from achieving the second, a smaller scope can make the purpose of a jar more concrete. So instead of a jar that is focused on demonstrating responsibility in all areas of life, break that down into smaller goals that relate to a bigger picture. Being responsible leads to being a contributing member of the family community. Thinking about multiple goals, each with their own jar, that could help her achieve this overarching goal would be more concrete and provide more immediate feedback.
My daughter learned about orphanages last year when she discovered that one of her classmate’s family had adopted a little girl from an orphanage. Lately, my daughter’s sensitivity to all things, including redirection, have verged on the over-dramatic. But when your daughter says to you, “Your voice makes it sound like you want to send me to an orphanage,” drama queen or not, I had to pause, stop, and collect myself (and try not to cry). I knew this was an opportunity to really talk with her. To really connect. So we did two things. First off, I decided to read her some of the letters I wrote to her seven years ago when she was one week old baby. We cuddled and I read, and I could see her becoming more and more aware of how much love there is between us. It made her feel better to hear my words of love and to know that even if I am upset with her that will never change.
Secondly, it also spurred a conversation about how we could fill each other’s happiness “bucket.” She had just read this book at school, so we decided that maybe we should start two new jars, one for me and one for her that focus on happiness and kindness. She needs these new jars. She needs to see that she has a positive impact on others and that our actions and words can make the difference between a full bucket and an empty one.
So we will keep working. Keeping track of our marbles. Talking about what things look like, feel like, and sound like, hoping that more and more we build each other’s capacity as a daughter, as a mom, and grow as a family. And? I will have my journal of letters, written so many years ago, ready to be shared, to reassure and remind all of us of the love we share.
Check out the Marble Jar on iTunes.
This was the third and final post in a series of sponsored posts by Marble Jar. All opinions are my own.