This is the time of year when we re-evaluate our lives, our waistlines and our accomplishments. We take note of what we don’t like and we make a resolution to transform. We set goals and work toward change.

We can apply a similar approach with our children, helping them improve. Plato taught, “Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.”

I believe it’s important to make sure we play an active role in helping our children choose to do the right things. To help them know they can choose to have a positive behavior, to help them see areas they can improve and to reward them for their efforts to be better.

There are two mason jars on top of a bookcase in our family room. Each jar is filled with colorful, fluffy pom-poms the size of jawbreakers. Picture the kind that used to be attached to your mom’s ankle socks. These are the crafty kind used for preschool art projects. The jars look a little out of place but they are actually the center of our day.

Motivating children is no easy feat. We’ve used a number of different tactics. First we tried sticker charts, one for potty-training and another for chores. We have several time-out corners. But lately, it’s pom-poms that are working best. It must have something to do with the positive reinforcement the kids get when they earn pom-poms.

I am the Keeper of the Pom-poms, it’s a very prestigious position. In this role, I get to issue special pom-poms for whatever I see fit! My big kids earn pom-poms for things like doing chores without being asked, helping with their little brothers, being kind, sleeping in their own bed, getting homework done early. The possibilities are endless! The other day they each earned pom-poms because we made it to church early. (They play something called “prelude music.” Who knew?)

When their jars fill up, they get to pick a prize from the dollar store. (Or keep the dollar for their bank.) Some weeks the jars fill up quickly. Others, we have several hard days and the jars stay stagnant.

In the beginning, the Keeper of the Pom-poms also removed pom-poms from jars for bad behavior. In theory this is a great idea but it caused too much anguish with my 4-year-old. He decided he’d rather do his time in time-out, than loose pom-poms. I agreed.

There may be some flaws with our pom-pom process. I’m pretty sure I caught my son taking them out of his sister’s jar and placing them in his own. Thankfully he has a guilty conscience.

But overall, those fuzzy little things work. Because of pom-poms, we have fewer fights about homework, brushing teeth and cleaning house. My kids will even pitch in without being asked—sometimes.

Someday society will thank me—er, the Keeper of the Pom-poms—for teaching my son not to hit, bite, spit and scream. And his wife will be happy that he puts the seat down.

Nicole Carpenter and her husband are busy raising their four children, 7 years and younger (including identical twin boys). Nicole blogs at (formerly What techniques do you use to motivate your kids?