Around 3 years ago I was sitting at a play date with a few other moms discussing the different ways we motivate and discipline our toddlers/preschoolers. An acquaintance at the time, who would later become a dear friend, introduced me to the “pom pom jar.”
The pom pom jar has easily been one of the most powerful parenting tools that I have ever been given. It has helped motivate my kids to have good behavior, and I even think it has helped me to be a better parent.
What the heck is a pom pom jar, you ask?
Well, basically it’s a positive reinforcement tool that I have found to have multiple added benefits. Physically, ours is a simple mason jar with a split piece of foam on top. Both of my older children have one now, and my youngest will receive hers somewhere between two and half and 3 years of age.
The pom pom jar a simple idea with big results.
Anytime a child does something positive, they can earn a pom pom. When the jar gets full, the child earns a previously agreed upon reward, or as we like to call it, a “prize.”
In our house, one can earn a pom pom by doing a task the FIRST time you are asked, eating your meal without excessive prompting, sharing a toy with your sibling, helping mom with any given task, and even going #2 in the potty, lol. When the child does NOT do what they are supposed to do we say “Aww man, if you would have listened and done X-Y-Z, then you could have gotten a pom pom. Darn, well maybe next time.”
My kids go crazy for pom poms. They LOVE earning them and they HATE having missed opportunities to have earned them. Especially when they have a really coveted “prize” in mind. I was SHOCKED at how effective this tool has been for me as a parent. It has REALLY motivated my kids to behave and it has decreased my tendency as a parent to yell.
Additionally, it has given them the opportunity to EARN toys as opposed to just wanting or begging for them. In our house, with the exception of birthdays and holidays, the ONLY way mom or dad buys you a toy is through filling up your pom pom jar. This has also stopped my children from asking for things when we are out shopping. Instead of saying “mommma, can I pleeeease get this.” They now say “momma, when my pom pom jar is full, I want to use it for that, ok?” Or in turn, when they see something on tv that they point out and want, I will excitedly say “Oooh yeah, we can get that when you fill up your pom pom jar!” That jar being full represents a lot of good behavior! This makes me feel good about buying them a toy because they have earned it. And for them, the toy is a reminder of the benefits of good behavior.
This whole concept is really something that you can customize to whatever works for you and your children. The friend that introduced me to this concept uses it SOLELY as a positive reinforcement tool, meaning that the child can only earn them but never loses them once they are earned. However, now that my kids have gotten older, at our house, my kids can also lose pom poms for bad behavior. This has proven to be a very effective punishment for them.
If you do decide to try using a pom pom jar with your child, make sure you really talk it up! Get excited about the idea in front of them and remind them about it constantly- especially for younger ones. I have found that the more I get excited about something, the more my kids usually do as well!
You can make the jar cute and crafty if you like, or you can keep it simple. All you really need is a jar of any sort and pom poms from any craft store. You can buy a smaller jar with larger pom poms for younger children or a larger jar with smaller pom poms for older kids- whatever works for you. Our jar needs about 120 pom poms to be considered full and that usually takes my kids 2-3 months to accomplish. We have been using this tool for about 3 years now. It has been a big help for me and for many other moms who I have passed down this amazingly simple idea to.
I hope you find that some version of this idea may be helpful for your toddler or preschooler as well. Happy pom-poming 🙂