Get Your Family a "Jar of Funny Consequences"

conflict management consequences home culture interpersonal relationships Sep 24, 2020
raising resilient kids
Are there certain little things around the house that just grate on your nerves? They aren't a big deal, really, but you get tired of hearing yourself nag your family members. Maybe your spouse leaves the sponge in the sink, and your daughter never closes the door when she's chatting (loudly) with her friends. 
Truth be told, there are probably a few things your family members would prefer that you stop doing, too. Maybe they don't actually like it when you scream, "Mommy and Daddy love you!" at the top of your lungs when you drop them off at school. 
In general, we are big proponents of eliminating artificial reinforcers and consequences and, instead, allowing people to develop real-world incentives for positive behaviors and experience real-world consequences for negative behaviors. This is how we raise resilient kids with self-efficacy. We don't want kids doing things just for the treat, nor do we want to scare kids into compliance by being overly punitive with respect to consequences.
But sometimes, in households, we need a way to let the steam out of something. The Jar of Consequences is a fun way to ease household tensions about these small annoyances that, when left unaddressed, can create big tension.
It works like this: First, Agree on a list of infractions: Barging into the bathroom without knocking. Leaving dishes around the house. Leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor. 
Then brainstorm for funny consequences that everyone agrees they will do if caught making an infraction. This is important. If all family members don't agree on the consequence, take it off the list. This should be a positive, fun experience, and not something that causes real humiliation or pain. 
Here are a few we thought of, but your household should come up with their own list: 
  • "Drink a shot of pickle juice." 
  • "Dog-poop duty. (Ha! You said doody!)" 
  • "Eat a handful of dry crackers, and then sing a song." 
Once your family has agreed on the consequences, write them on scraps of paper, and put them into a The Jar of Consequences. The next family member who breaks the rules pulls from the jar. 
Then watch the energy in your household shift. When your daughter leaves her wet towel on the bathroom floor--again--you will be far less irritated when her consequence is to eat a handful of Saltine crackers while singing Happy Birthday on the front lawn. And she just might remember to pick up her towel next time around!

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