I have to say that for the most part I am pretty proud of M for how sweet he is. To his mommy and daddy, to his friends, and even now to strangers in the grocery store who he greets excitedly. If you know him, you know that he has come a LONG way. For a while the only human beings he would even look at could be counted on less than one hand. It was hard and I spent many days wondering if I did something wrong to cause his shyness (aka sheer terror of other people). Fortunately, daycare and frequent play dates and maturity have caused him to come out of his shell quite a bit.
The shyness is something I never even thought of before becoming a parent. However right when we got pregnant I remember being so worried about one thing. How in the world would we raise our children to be kind? It was like this pit in my stomach (literally! ha!) and I wondered how I would ever succeed at this as I saw it as one of the most important things my husband and I could do as parents is teach our children to be kind. Like I said above, for the most part, M is a total sweetheart. He still loves cuddling and giving great big bear-hugs to everyone he knows and loves. He gives big kisses at bed time-regular, eskimo, and butterfly…the trifecta. He shouts “Love you more mama!” when his daddy is taking him from the bath to his bedroom every single night. He is a good boy. And we are SO proud of him.
However there are few things that need work as far as his behavior goes…
These days it’s the listening. It just doesn’t happen you guys. I feel like I have to repeat myself 100 times for him to do one little thing. And sometimes he’ll just look up at me and say “yea!” like he gets it and is going to do or not do what I’ve asked him to do or not do. And then nothing. It doesn’t help that he’s so freaking cute too so discipline is really hard when you’re also trying not to laugh or say “awwww!”.
Next, his manners. He actually does okay when we ask him to say “please” and “thank you” and to get his feet off the table, etc. However I want this to become second nature to him. So when he is given something to say “thank you” right away without having to be asked. I want him to know that it’s unacceptable to put his feet on the table or to play with our food during meal times. I want him to use his fork and not his hands all on his own. We are still struggling a bit with these things.
Lastly, random acts of kindness. This can be anything from picking his toys up without having to be told, throwing away his baby brother’s diaper or getting him a blanket, paci, etc. without having to be told. Giving his puppies hugs just to be nice, giving mommy and daddy hugs, just to be nice. These are all things that I consider to be random acts of kindness for him as a toddler, that he can do independently. Now we did just do a craft where we are going to be sending all of his grandparents “hugs” in the mail. However this was led, of course, by me and not something he fully understands at this point.
This brings me to The Kindess Jar. I found this idea on Pinterest of course and I loved the idea of encouraging positive reinforcement rather then negative responses to poor behavior. I was getting really frustrated and discouraged with how negative I felt like I was being and how that could be impacting M and his behavior. I fully believe that he, and most children, respond to the kind of energy they are surrounded by. I felt like my negative energy with regard to his behavior was only making things worse, or at the very least was not improving anything.
Here’s how we’ve interpreted The Kindess Jar at our house:
Whenever M does something helpful, nice, polite, etc. He gets to pick out one colorful noodle and put it in his jar. Some examples of things that would warrant a noodle:
- Saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ without having to be asked
- Reminding himself not to do something bad. Sometimes he’ll say “No put fee on the table” or “No chase puppies”. When he is aware of a bad behavior and recognizes that he should not do it we definitely give him credit for that.
- Getting his little brother his paci when he’s crying
- Helping out by throwing away a diaper or throwing away his own trash
- Being sweet to his puppies by giving hugs or ‘nice touches’
- Cleans up his toys without being asked or after only one time of asking. Singing the “Clean Up” song seems to help this process quite a bit!
- Being sweet to Mommy or Daddy or anyone without being told. Random hugs and kisses, or asking “You okay Mommy?” when I stub my toe or sometimes for no reason at all. It seems silly but it shows that he is aware of other people and their emotions and feelings and that’s a pretty big deal.
- Using his manners in the way of saying “bless you” or “excuse me” without being told
There are tons of other small behaviors and “random acts of kindness” that could win him a noodle in the jar, as well. Sometimes it’s a matter of, in that moment, deciding “hey bud that was really sweet of you! Let’s put a noodle in your kindness jar!”. No matter what, every time he does something we let him pick out one noodle and tell him how proud we are of him and explain to him why he’s getting the noodle and why it was a good thing to do. We will also occasionally remind him that once the jar is filled up he gets a cupcake! Food matters, y’all.
Now, we are only about a week into this but I am already noticing a difference. His manners have improved, he is listening a little bit better-meaning I only have to ask 2 or 3 times for something to be done or not done. It’s a process, right?!
But I notice him being kind. To us, to his puppies and in general interactions. So we are going to keep at it with hopes that it will teach him that good, kind behaviors and attitudes will be rewarded and encouraged, always.
You can use just about anything to put in your kindness jars. The one from Pinterest uses Pom Poms but M loves playing with these so much I was worried it would seem like I was taking them away from him.
To make the colored pasta you’ll need:
- 1lb of pasta
- food coloring
- 4 plastic bags (I recommend freezer bags if you have them because they are sturdy and not as prone to tears in the bag, or food coloring splattered all over your house!)
- Rubbing Alcohol or white vinegar
I sectioned out the pasta in quarters and used about 2 tsps of Rubbing Alcohol and 1-2 tsps of food coloring for each color. Shake in the bag so all of the pasta is covered. Spread pasta out on sheet pans lined with paper towel. Once the paper towel has sucked up most of the liquid transfer to wax paper to quicken the drying process.
Here’s to raising good, kind little babes. It’s not easy but it’s worth it!