The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

From One Parent to Another

Let me start by saying I am not the absolute expert on parenting. Im lucky to say I have a few things in my corner: a little instinct, an awesome role model in my own mom and the “village” of mothers around me. I value so much the relationships I have with other mothers who are honest about how hard it can be to walk through this stage of our lives and how to parent “right” (if there is even such a thing).

After having my second child, Ruby, I was at the end of my rope trying to wrangle my 2 year old, Jack, while I seemed to be constantly stuck in the same spot, nursing our newborn on the couch. No amount of threats, bribery or TV was helping to keep him in line. One such friend and mother offered up this little strategy for me and I am indebted to her for it. It wont solve the world’s problems by any means but it has helped me parent more calmly and effectively, making our home a happier place. This brilliant idea offers up instant positive reinforcement to kids, giving them the attention they crave.

I introduce to you what my children have lovingly come to know as rocks

There are so many varieties of this idea: some parents do coupons, others do sticker charts, we do “rocks”. With a simple name like “rocks”, the idea has to be just as simple right? Yup. You can have this little idea rolling in your house in under 30 minutes plus maybe a short stint at Micheals if you dont have the supplies already at home.


– (2)  jar or bucket
– stickers or washi tape to decorate
– “rocks” or other fun items to count earnings
– permanent marker or paint pen (check out the tutorial at Oh Happy Day for an awesome way to add names)

You see, for every good deed our children do, they receive a certain amount of rocks. The “rocks” can be buttons, spare Legos or floral gems- whatever excites them and helps you keep track. (I scored floral gems at The Dollar Store so we went with those.) The brilliant part is you can easily tailor how rocks are earned according to each child, their age and the current issue or stumbling block. Its so simple it makes for an easy transition with grandparents and babysitters as well.

Here are some of the ways rocks are earned in our home:

sharing without pressure from mom or dad · 2 rocks
completing school worksheet · 1 rock
trip to the store without arguing · 2 rocks
feeding the cat · 1 rock
cleaning bedroom · 3 rocks

Once your child fills up their jar of rocks they get to pick how to celebrate: date to the movies with mom or dad, a trip to Toys ‘R Us to pick out a new Lego set, or dinner at their favorite restaurant! Two years later, Jack’s jar is still a house staple and we just started Ruby’s own jar- making a significant dent in the “terrible twos”.  Like my friend before, I have passed on this rock system to many other friends and now Im passing it on to you.

About Shannon

Shannon Harrison is a modern freestyle portrait and wedding photographer living near San Diego, California with her best friend/husband and 3 wild wee ones by her side. When shes not hanging with her clients from JACKANDRUBYstudios, you will find this homebody in the kitchen baking something drizzled with caramel or perusing the aisles of Target. Known to pull out her beloved Nikon at the local grocery store or a family bike ride, Shannon finds inspiration just about anywhere. She encourages photographers and hobbyists alike to focus on personal projects and their families to drive creativity. After all, no one can see your family the way you do.

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  • Jennifer Floyd McClure

    We do this at our house, too, and love it! I only wish I had known about this trick during the days when I was stuck on the couch nursing while the 2-year-old ran wild! LOL Love how your jars are decorated.

  • Tami

    Are you sure this post wasn’t about me?=) I have a 2 year old and 7 month old and we are in the thick of the terrible two’s. Some days, I just want to run away. My husband and I were just talking about positive reinforcement and the only thing that came to my mind was a sticker chart. I think this might work a little better. Thanks!

  • Shannon Harrison

    awesome! so glad you guys are giving it a go! ive so been there and still very much am :)

  • lindsay

    positive reinforcement…love it! so much more fun than stickers on a chart :)

  • Gretchen

    You are such a creative mama! Love this idea and even though we are past the terrible twos I’m thinking it will still work for us!

  • Dalton

    I am that person nursing a newborn on the couch while trying to keep track of an “enthusiastic” 2 year old. Thanks for sharing this idea. I am going to try it out for sure. Also, on a side note…I love the name Ruby!

  • Tiffany

    We have been using a similar idea for daughter this month to earn money for an AWANA project. I’m surprised how much it motivates her so I’m thinking once we are done with this project that we will move to something like you have mentioned to continue the encouragement. Thank you for the suggestions!

  • Christine

    Love this idea!

  • Breeze Floyd

    Love this idea!

  • Lea Hartman

    Wonderful idea! I have really been struggling with a way to motivate my 6-year old son. He’s so easily distracted and often has to be told to do the same thing at least 3-4 times. I need a way to help him to focus on the task at hand and not get sidetracked! This sounds like awesome motivation!