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Lessons from the bean jar

As you start this week, focus on your own positive. I thought of this last night, as I dished out more beans to our family’s bean jar.

See, we’ve started something this year, and so far, it’s working beautifully: the bean jar. The grownups dish out beans for various positive attitudes among family members—emptying the dishwasher without being asked, getting ready for bed without complaint, doing stellar math work, whatever. Sometimes we even give beans for random, anonymous stuff, simply saying, “Someone’s done something awesome!” and leave it a mystery.

The keys are these: there’s only one jar, so there’s no competition; everyone’s happy when someone does something good. And? We only add beans for positive stuff—we never take beans away for negative behavior. If it’s a rough day, there may not be many beans added to the jar, but that’s okay. The next day, we start over.

bean jar

The prize when the little jar is full? We haven’t yet decided, but it’ll be some fun family activity we’ll all enjoy. (I should add, by the way, that this isn’t my idea. I learned it from Oliver DeMille’s Leadership Education.)

This simple bean jar has reminded me to focus on my own personal positives. It’s so easy to look at what I didn’t cross off the day’s to-do list, but when I acknowledge what all I did, a weight lifts. Or when I share the favorite part of my day around the dinner table (another favorite family tradition around here), I recognize that there’s always at least one thing good in any day, no matter how horrible overall.

Be intentional and focus on the good every day this week. You may have a rough few days ahead of you, but take heart. Each day is a new one, and there is always at least one reason to be thankful. Use a bean jar if you need help remembering.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Heather

    This is a great idea! Thank you for sharing. I think my young kiddos would really enjoy this one, especially if there is the promise of a fun family activity when the little jar is full. I also really like that there is just one little jar.

  2. Ann

    I really love that beans can only be added, not taken away and that there’s just one jar for the whole family. Even before I realized there was more to it than just those two things, I think those two things help keep the family working together.

    In our home, our award at the end of the project: Bean soup. Our kids love beans. 😉

    • Christine

      I love love so very much that the reward is bean soup! Simply great!

  3. Mary B

    we used a bean jar in cub scout meetings – worked wonders!

  4. Michelle

    Just what I needed to read this morning! Love your Monday posts!

  5. Leslie

    I love this! Thanks for sharing! It reminds me of the verse in Joshua where the Lord instructs His people to set up stones as a memorial of the great things He did on their behalf: “These stones will remind the people of what the Lord has done. In the future, when your children ask what these stones mean to you, you will tell them…” Joshua 4:6-7 Definitely a different spin on “remembering” but it rings similar in that the family is paying attention and making note of good things. Great idea!

  6. Carly

    I love it that you used coffee beans. Very fitting for you guys:-). You kids will be drinking coffee before we know it. Decaf of course. Don’t want to stunt there growth. I started doing this similar thing in my class. I love that it is for everyone not just an individual so it encouraged team work. I also love that you said they earn them for doing something without asking. There’s this philosophy that we shouldn’t reward children(to encourage good behavior) for something that is expected. Struggle with agreeing and disagreeing with this at times.

  7. Shelly

    I love this idea! With ten kids in the house, everything always turns into a competition. This is a great way to get them to WORK TOGETHER!

  8. Amanda

    I love this idea, but can you be more specific as to how you set it up, and actual process of using it. Thanks 🙂

  9. Tanya

    This is an amazing idea. My son respond so well to positivity. This would be great for him.

  10. Darcy Wiley

    I’ve been learning this lately, too, as some of my creative pursuits have been getting less attention with the arrival of my third baby last spring. I was amazed, though, when I reflected on 2013 over the holidays and saw how much growth there was not only in my family but in my blog archives last year. I know this is the way to live on a daily basis too–it’s so much more motivating than my usual kicking myself as I look around at the seeming chaos of my home and get down about how much I HAVEN’T accomplished. It’s that attitude of scarcity that Brene Brown shares about in _Daring Greatly_. I love where she quotes Lynne Twist, “This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life….” I love how your bean jar idea focuses on fullness and not lack. Plus, it feels sustainable in the middle of an all-too-tedious home life! Thanks.

  11. Faigie

    What a great idea. I especially like the way it takes away competitiveness and makes everyone cheer each other on. (like your new profile shot, by the way)

  12. Pam List

    Love this idea! I think I will use button, I collect the ones that comes with the clothes never to be used again. Now my button will have a purpose!


  13. Jessica

    I love the idea of a bean jar! We started a family gratitude journal this year, which similarly is helping us to focus on the positives and be thankful, it’s proving to be a lovely time of family sharing.

  14. Liana

    Thanks for this Tsh! I love the concept of tangibly looking at one’s glass half full – definitely spoke to me.

  15. Dori - The Recreated Lifestyle

    I hope you don’t mind, but I loved your newest book so much I made a blog post about it! (linking back to you of course). It was so beautiful and inspirational! So thank you!
    And I simply love the idea behind this bean jar post! When God blesses me with kids one day, I hope I remember this idea!
    On a more businessy note, I think there are some features of our blogs that are very similar! I’m sure I’ll be constantly linking back to your amazing blog in the future, and in teh future(if you remember) I sure would appreciate a link back to my own! =) Keep up the amazing work.
    Lots of love!

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