Practicing Self-Discipline with The Box

Re-gain Some Self-discipline

This summer, all of my kids have been working. The older two have summer jobs; the younger two help me set up and clean up for my art classes, and I pay them each time for their efforts. Everyone has been really busy, so we’ve become quite lax in regards to cleaning the house. It was clear everyone needed to re-gain some self-discipline and pick up after themselves. And now that there was money in everyone’s pockets, it was time to re-institute “The Box”.

I first heard about this idea when my oldest was about eight years old.  I tried it back then, but allowances were sporadic, so the kids weren’t as motivated as they are now. And this time, it involves money they’ve worked hard to earn.

How It Works

All you need is a large cardboard box and a jar to hold some coins. You can set the box anywhere – in the corner of a room, or in a closet if you want it to be out of the way. Then, throughout the day and evening, the kids have to keep their stuff picked up, or it goes in The Box. To get an item out of The Box, the owner must pay 25 cents into the money jar.

My oldest son has a habit of leaving his shoes all over the house. Both of them go into the box, and he has to pay 50 cents for the pair. Other common items that have gone in there recently include hats and other articles of clothing, books, sketch pads, folders, MP3 players, sheet music, and even instruments!  No matter how big or small, each item is 25 cents to retrieve.

For Mom and Dad, Too

“But that’s not fair!” they holler as I pick up yet another object and toss it in. But it is fair, because it’s their stuff, and they need to be responsible for it and put it away. To help instill that a good habit in everyone, The Box is for my stuff and my husband’s stuff, too. If the kids find it out of place, in it goes, and we have to pay 25 cents. We’re saving the money in the jar until we have enough to buy something the whole family can enjoy.


There are lots of ways to vary The Box to suit your family’s needs. If 25 cents an item isn’t really do-able as it wasn’t for us at times, use chores around the house instead (I think I’m going to implement this along WITH the 25 cents!). For example, in order to retrieve an item from the box, the owner must complete a chore. Write these up ahead of time so you don’t have to think about them on the spot, and place them in a jar or envelope. Then, when your child wants to get an object back, have her draw a slip of paper from the chore jar.  If she doesn’t want to do the chore, she doesn’t get the item.

You could place a time limit on retrieving the items. Let your child know if she doesn’t retrieve it by the end of the week, you’re going to give it away.

You might also make your child wait until the weekend before she can retrieve her items. If her favorite jacket went into the box on Monday, she’ll just have to make do with something else until Saturday. A good lesson learned.

There are lots of ways to use The Box to get kids picking up after themselves. What are some self-discipline ideas your family has come up with?

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