This post is 2 1/2 years in the making! February 2013 Jerald was out of town on a business trip. I was trying to move the boys along from dinner to bath to bed after being on my own for a couple of long days. Justin, who was 5 at the time, looks at me, in a very sweet way, and says “how come you get to make all the rules?” Well, that was an interesting question. I explained to them, that I am the Mom, I know what is best for them, it is my job to keep them safe and healthy, etc… Justin then asked if they could make the rules one day. I thought about it, and it seemed like an interesting idea. A day where the kids could really make all the rules. What would that look like? Chaos? A giant mess for me to clean up? Multiple trips to the hospital for injuries sustained while my three boys made the rules? No – it couldn’t be that bad. I almost said, “Ok – let’s pick a day soon and you guys will be in charge.” Luckily, I thought for a second and came up with a plan.
Seth was in 1st grade at the time, and his teacher had a teddy bear jar. When the kids did something good or nice, she would add one little teddy bear to the jar. When the jar was filled up the class would get a really nice treat. One time it was pajama day at school and another time it was fancy day with suits, dresses and little snacks. I took this idea for my own and created “Kids-Rule Day!” I found a cheap vase, tapped a little note on and bought some bouncy smiley balls to fill it with. I introduced the idea the very next morning to the kids. They were thrilled!
There were a few simple rules we put in place. The kids could earn smiley balls in a lot of different ways. Good behavior, being nice or kind to your family, or whenever else we felt that some good action should be rewarded. Smiley balls were never taken away once they were in the jar. Once they were earned that was it. My parenting style definitely consists of time-outs and taking away privileges for bad behavior. But for some reason, taking out hard earned smiley balls seemed to be too severe of a punishment and against the intent of the project. Once the jar was full, the boys would have the whole day to make the rules. We discussed that these “rules” could not be anything that would destroy the house or be dangerous. There would be no writing on the walls of the house! (that was actually Ezra’s first idea of what to do.)
When Jerald came home from his business trip, he was intrigued by the idea, but said he wanted to be at work when Kids-Rule Day finally came around. I had no idea how long it would take to fill the jar. There were times when they were earning multiple smiley balls in a week, and other times were weeks would go by with no smiley balls. Sometimes it was because their behavior wasn’t up to the smiley ball standard. Other times it was because no one was thinking about it – and it didn’t’ occur to us to give one. It was something they were always working towards. If there was a fit about sharing a toy – sometimes offering a smiley ball would help ease the situation. If we were going out to a fancy dinner with family – the promise of three smiley balls would help focus them on their good behavior. Even though the promise of Kids-Rule Day was so far in the future – they held on to their goal and worked together.
The summer of 2014 I had two weeks in a row with the three boys and what I call “Mommy Camp.” I thought that one of those days would be a perfect day for Kids-Rule Day. We booked our days so full that there was never enough time, and there was still too many balls needed to fill the jar. The winter of 2014-2015 in Boston was beyond brutal. We had over 100 inches of snow and my kids had 9 snow days! The jar was near full, and I told Jerald that we should plan to have it full on a snow day. He agreed – but for some reason we got busy with other snow activities and it never happened. We finally got to the summer of 2015 and the jar was really almost full. The time had come! On a thursday morning, we scheduled our yearly family photo-shoot and we told the boys, if they behaved well they would each earn a smiley ball which would put them over the top and the rest of the day would be Kids-Rule Day.
After the photo-shoot each boy put their last ball in and you can see from the pictures our family photographer snapped, how excited they were! Jerald and I had been discussing what would it actually be like when Kids-Rule Day came. We thought they would watch a bunch of tv, eat some junk and then get bored and want to do something else. We were wrong!
They all put on the pajamas, raided the pantry and started eating cookies and hershey kisses, and turned on the tv. They watched tv for 10 and 1/2 hours straight!!!! At one point, my cleaning lady was vacuuming the floor of the living room, so they took the ipad and all laid in one bed to continue watching tv.
They ate pizza and ice cream for lunch and sushi for dinner. By dinner time, they didn’t want anymore candy or sugar but they still wanted more tv. If they had stopped at some point and asked to go to a toy store, a trampoline park, the pool – I would have taken them. But all they wanted to do was watch movies and tv. Such an interesting but scary experiement!
After they went to sleep, I emptied all the smiley balls out and replaced the empty jar. I was slightly worried about their reaction. They said – ok let’s start earning smiley balls again and they began to make plans for the next Kids-Rule Day.