March 24, 2014

Teaching Kids to Build a Happy Home

There are times when my kids seem to delight in pushing each other's buttons. There's name calling, tattling, hitting, and lots of crying. It drives me crazy and I end up sending them to their rooms for hours just so I can escape it.

And why am I thinking about this? Could it be because spring break is coming up next week and with Maren home the dynamics of daily life change and I'm worrying about if I can stay sane?

Maybe.

Really, my kids are pretty good, but sometimes we have bad days. When the kids are too much in the habit of treating each other poorly, I know it's time to intervene. That's when I bring out our "Happy Home".

a finished happy home from 2010


I posted about this when I first started the blog, but it was a long time ago and I thought I should repost it, because it's one of my favorite incentives and has worked so well to help get the kids back in the habit of treating each other kindly.

Our "Happy Home" is made out of Lego bricks. I build a house then take off some bricks - maybe about 50 - and put them in a jar by the house. When I first introduced the "Happy Home", I told the kids that it represents our family. Whenever they treat each other kindly by sharing, giving someone else the first turn, complimenting someone, helping someone with chores, or showing some other kindness, it makes our home a better place and builds up our home. In contrast, when we fight, call names, tattle, and are selfish it tears down our home and makes it a sadder place to be.

starting happy home


Our goal is to build up our happy home and if they accomplish this we have some type of predetermined reward, such as going to a movie together or one of those pizza and game places. I give the kids a deadline - usually 4 weeks - and tell them we are going to try and build up our home by then. If I notice the kids doing something nice, I tell them to go put a brick on the home. The kids are not allowed to tell me they did something nice and should get to put a brick on, BUT they are allowed to tell me if one of the other kids does something nice for them and the other kid should get to put on a brick. Does that make sense? So they can't nominate themselves to put on a brick, but they can nominate a sibling who did something nice. This helps them focus more on their siblings and also it's an acceptable form of tattling.

a finished home from 2013. 


When there is hitting or name calling or other offenses that make our home not a happy place, the offending child or children have to take bricks off the home. I make them take a brick off for tattling too. (Tattling is defined in our family as telling me something to try and get someone else in trouble. It doesn't count as tattling if someone is about to hurt themselves or others and the telling is to help keep people safe.)

It's IMPORTANT not to be angry when you ask someone to take a brick off the house. It is much more effective if you can show sorrow instead. Instead of yelling at them for doing something mean, say something like "Oh, I'm so sorry you chose to say that to your brother! I'm going to have to ask you to take off a brick because that is not how we want to treat each other in this family. I am sad that our house is not growing very fast. I  hope we can start doing a better job building it up so we can get our reward." Easier said then done, I know. I may have had to take off a brick or two from our happy home  for yelling as well. Also, time out in rooms after an especially bad moment works well for us to separate kids and let them settle down before interacting with each other again.

This is a great way to get the kids focused on creating positive interactions with each other. For the first couple weeks I usually have to remind the kids that I'm watching them for opportunities to put bricks on, and we keep the happy home in the kitchen so that it reminds us of our goal. After a while, however, they get in the habit of helping and saying nice things and it makes our house a much nicer place to be. We don't do this all the time, but it is a great thing to pull out every now and then when needed.

Are there any tricks you have to help your kids get along? I'd love to hear about them! I'm always looking for new ways to teach the kids.

13 comments:

  1. That's so creative! I just make the kids do chores... :) Get's me a clean house and helps them to get out their 'extra energy' in a more constructive way.

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  2. I'm trying this! This is a very creative idea that just might work for us.

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    1. Thanks! I hope it works well for you! At the beginning I always have to do a lot of reminding or I say something like "gee, it sure would be great if someone would help Nathan get some orange juice" and then they do it and I let them put on a brick, but after a while they get in the habit. Let me know how it goes!

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  3. I love this idea! We did something similar with the macaroni jar, but considering my kids are Lego maniacs, I think they would love this even more.

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    1. Thanks! I hope it works well for you!

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  4. What a smart mama you are, I love this idea, great way to visualize cause and effect. Going to try and will share too!

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    1. Thanks Ann! I appreciate the comments and the share. :)

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  5. I absolutely love this idea! I'm going to start doing a behavior jar with my 3 year old to help her keep peace in the home by filling it with pom poms when she's good and taking them out when she isn't. The home building is a great visual idea! I'll have to do this when my kids are older. I'm featuring this at my link party and pinning!

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  6. I love this idea so very very much! I might have to buy some more legos to do it, but it's worth it!

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    1. Thanks Adelina! Hope it works well for you!

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  7. This is such a creative and visual idea for kids. I love it! We are doing crowns of thorns for the Lenten Season (each child made a crown of thorns out of playdough and toothpicks and every time they do something nice they get to pull out a thorn....the goal is to have no thorns left by Easter).....I think we will doing something along the lines of your happy home idea after Easter!

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