pono parenting system

A few months ago my gal pal and I took our kids hiking through Makawao forest. Along the way we bumped into another mom and her four kids. When it was time for them to go this mom called to her kids and they all came running. I mean it, all four kids dropped what they were doing and without any hesitation came on the very first call. I stood there in awe, oh, and did I mention that they were all smiling? I’ve been a mommy for seven years, and spent my whole life constantly around kids, but I have never seen that kind of joyful obedience! I had to find out this mother’s secret. That’s when I learned about the Pono System, which has since changed our lives.

Pono is a beautiful Hawaiian word meaning righteous, proper, excellent, and/or upright. It pretty much sums up the qualities I want to drive my sons in their day-to-day choices.
 I’ve tweaked and expanded upon the original idea, that was pitched to me that rainy day in Makawao forest, with a more holistic approach to meet the unique needs of my children. But, that’s the beauty of the pono system, you can mold it to your
child’s individual personality while keeping to the main concept.

The original Pono System was strictly verbal, but my kids are younger so I opted to add a visual aspect.
Basically, every week or so we focus on a new Pono habit. The amount of time we 
spend on each Pono habit varies based on my boys mastering of the current skill – if
they get it quick we move on after a week, if not we may stick to the same skill for
two or three.

The Pono habit highlights a skill that is lacking among my boys, for example, when my middle 
son was getting guarded with his toys our Pono theme for the week was “Sharing is Caring”. Or when my oldest was getting a little fed up with his little 
brothers our theme that week was “We not Me”. Right now our Pono theme is “Wake up & Be 
happy”. I thought this was an important habit to get in to – mostly for me – I mean, who doesn’t want to start the day off with a smile? 
With each new Pono habit I introduce the theme, explain why the habit is important and 
what we can do to better master it. I put visual reminders on our Pono wall with a catchy saying that will get caught in my boys’ 
heads every time they look at it. I use this catch phrase to remind them throughout 
the day when I see someone (including me) starting to slip. I also use a picture that will help my non-reader sons remember the new habit.

We also have a list of all the Pono habits we have covered to serve as a constant reminder.
 Now here’s the best part, the Pono jar. This miraculous up-cycled raspberry jam jar is
the key to the whole thing. When I see the boys using their new Pono skills they get rewarded with Pono points or in our case coins. The 
amount of money they receive with each Pono point varies, sometimes their act 
was simple and I just toss in a penny, other times they may get a quarter, it really doesn’t matter. In the beginning the points were vital, but over time I’ve helped the boys internalize the good feelings that result from their Pono actions. Now I only reward them monetarily about half the time, and soon they won’t need it at all as the good behavior becomes a habit.

I have noticed drastic changes in each of my boys in the few months that we have strived to be more Pono. Now I just need to ask my boys, “Are you being Pono?” And that’s enough to motivate better behavior. Of course they still slip and struggle, and sometimes they are just uncooperative and unwilling to behave, and that’s O.K. I don’t expect them to be Pono all the time, but am enjoying seeing them live Pono more and more each day.

Image Credit: Sara Watkins

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