Our new system just may be our favorite one ever. In the past, we’ve used Dad Dollars to encourage good behavior, but over time that system has become mainly associated with responsibilities (chores and school) and monitoring media time. It works super for that purpose, but I was searching for something that could really reach into our children’s hearts and encourage them to love the way Jesus loved. Our homeschool bible studies, and evening devotions have lately been centered around a central theme: Follow.
Some of our memory verses, for example, have been:
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:15
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
Our discussions have centered around living for Christ, not saying, “My sins are forgiven, great! Now I can just keep on sinning without worry…” but instead, having an attitude of thankfulness, that stretches us to change and be like Jesus, dying to ourselves and letting Him live in us, every day.
One night last week, during our evening family devotions, Iron Man was reading a chapter from Daniel McNaughton’s Follow, about treasures. The key verse was Matthew 6:19-21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
That same evening, I “happened upon” (with a little nudging from the Lord, no doubt) this post from Too Many Kids in the Bathtub. The post uses Matthew 6:19-21 as an inspiration for a “treasure jar” system. Oh! It is so good, and unlike anything we’ve ever done before! I set to work immediately, to make such a system for our family.
Here’s how it works.
First and foremost, we have Matthew 6 written out on cardstock with a pretty poster board background, decorated with plastic jewels.
Next, we have two jars. One jar is filled with “treasures” – red and clear plastic jewels. We call them rubies and diamonds. The other jar is a “Fill Me” jar. Every time the children do something that shows the love of Jesus in them - acts of kindness, helpfulness, generosity, words of encouragement, choosing a sweet spirit at times when it’s tough to be sweet, etc. - they are essentially choosing to store up “treasures in heaven” rather than treasures on earth. As an object lesson, when this happens they get to take a diamond or ruby from the Treasure Jar and put it in the Fill Me jar.
Those two jars are shared by all the children. This encourages them to help one another along, because they love to see the treasure jar fill up! When the Fill Me jar is full, the children get to choose a special activity. The rules for the special activity are that it is for the entire family to enjoy together, and everyone (including Dad and Mom) must be in agreement.
But it doesn’t end there. Simply filling the jar in order to get the special activity could potentially lead to a focus on the activity, which is in a sense, an earthly treasure. We want the focus to be on the heavenly treasures, and learning how to love and serve others. So, we also added an envelope of “Treasure Cards” to the system. Whenever a child adds a jewel to the Fill Me jar, they also get to select a treasure card from the envelope. Treasure cards are small index cards, each containing an idea for a way that they can show their love for God in practical ways. The treasure cards say things like Give someone a big hug, Write someone an encouraging note, Pray for orphans and widows, Do a chore for someone, etc.
Each child has their own envelope to hold the treasure cards that they have drawn. Throughout the week, they are to look for a good opportunity to do what the card says. When they do, they bring the card to me to go back in the treasure card envelope, and… they get another jewel and a new card. In this way, they are actively learning how to follow Christ’s example and love others.
We unveiled the Treasure Jar last night, and the children were so excited to start. As we expected, they were full of questions about the details. Of course, if you decide to do this, it’s yours and you can do it however you like, but here are a few details that we decided to implement:
- It is not considered “bragging” if the children come to Dad or Mom and humbly tell us what they did. For example, we encourage them to come to us to say, “Mommy, I just wanted to let you know that there was a big mess of unrolled toilet paper on the bathroom floor, but I picked it up.” The Lord sees all things and knows, but Dad and Mom don’t always see and we need them to let us know!
- Treasures can be taken away from the jar. This is limited exclusively for “relational” behaviors such as unkind words, fighting, not sharing, etc.
- Every child can add to the jar for their praiseworthy behavior, but we will only take away from the jar for children over the age of five. Younger kids have a lot more relational offenses, so we correct them in other ways that don’t affect the rest of their older siblings who are really trying hard!
I love it! Iron Man loves it! Best of all, the children love it, and are learning to be excited about love and service to others! Thank you so much to Too Many Kids in the Bathtub for the wonderful idea to help train our children in righteousness!