How to Use a Reward Jar to Improve a Child's Behavior

Children sometimes struggle with bad behavior. One way to encourage your child to work at having good behavior is by implementing a reward system. Use a reward jar to reward your child for his efforts. By focusing on his positive behaviors, you encourage him to repeat these behaviors.

Find a clear container for your reward jar. Decide what you will use to fill the jar, like marbles, blocks or other small objects.

Decide how many marbles your child must earn before receiving a reward. For younger children, you may want to keep the number small so they don't get bored with the positive reinforcement system. Ten or 20 may be a good number to start with.

Decide on the reward once the goal is achieved. It could be a toy, a trip to the zoo or other favorite location, an ice-cream cone or whatever else will motivate your child.

Explain to your child how the reward jar system works, and make sure he understands. Explain that when your child does something good, a marble will be placed in the reward jar. Once he has earned all of the marbles, he will receive a reward.

Start using the reward jar system right away. When your child makes a good decision or behaves well, add a marble to the reward jar. Make sure you tell your child you are placing a marble in the jar and explain why he received the marble. Tell your child specifically which behavior earned him a marble so that the behavior is reinforced. For example, "I like the way you picked up all of your blocks without being asked." It is very important that your child understands why he earned a marble for this system to be effective.

After all of the marbles are earned, reward your child. Then, empty the reward jar and start over.

Things You Will Need

  • Clear jar
  • Blocks, marbles or other items to place in the jar


To get your child more involved, use paints and stickers to decorate the reward jar.

If you have a specific behavior or behaviors that you want to address, you can focus on those with the reward jar. For example, if you want your child to use manners, reward him with a marble each time he uses his manners.

If it seems that your child is earning rewards very quickly, consider increasing the number of marbles he must earn to receive a reward. If it seems to take a long time to earn a reward and your child is getting frustrated or bored, consider lowering the number of marbles necessary for a reward.

Practice counting with your child by counting the marbles after the reward is achieved.