Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our parenting "moves"

Over the past week or so Addi has been, say, a tad more difficult than before. Like, if I was going to be sweet and write an open letter to her, like I did for Sam, it would go kind of like this:

Dear Addison,

Quit being a jerk.

Love, Mom

Not exactly what I want to put in her scrapbook. But, it’s not entirely ALL her fault… with the chilly weather and both kids being sick, we are all getting on each other’s nerves. The other day, while arguing with Addi over brushing her teeth, she stomped into the living room and start digging through the basket of books. Jay asked her what she was looking for and she said, “I’m looking for the Miss Bossy book. Mommy is being really bossy and needs to read it.”

In order to effectively handle the behavior situation before it gets totally out of hand and the kids completely run the house, Jay and I went over our parenting best practices – things we’ve learned that work over the last few years. Our main “Go to” moves: the stopwatch, bribery, and finally, punishment.

The Stopwatch: We have figured out if we need Addi to do something fast, we can tell her we will “time” her, make a beeping sound, and she’ll go as fast as she can to get it done. This also works with a group of kids because they all run around like crazy. Great for putting on shoes, getting your coat, and fetching Mommy’s phone. Not so great for big tasks like cleaning a playroom.

Bribery: This works with anything the kids really want… Gum, a dollar, a book, or even big toys like a bike. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. What’s valuable to a kid one day means squat the next. Plus, because I think Addi has a slight case of ADD you can’t bribe her with future events because she simply forgets. So if I tell her she has to earn something you had better believe that thing is sitting in our kitchen, taunting her daily. A lot of times we’ll go shopping and she’ll see what she wants, and that becomes the newest desire for her to drool over. Our newest bribe:

That’s right. A Barbie ceiling fan. It's sitting in my garage right now, waiting to be installed. What can I say, the kid has eclectic taste.

If she’s good this whole week, she gets to keep the fan. If not… well, who are we kidding, she’s getting it no matter what. But SHE doesn’t know that. The downside to bribery: if you use edible bribes like candy, once it’s eaten there’s no incentive to keep up the good work. And, it gets pricy, ie: her new bike. But by far bribery is our main go to move when pure persuasion doesn't work.

Punishment: Our third and final move. Hard to believe but this is the least favorite at our house. And we ALL dislike it. Because if you send Addi to her room, you don’t get 5 minutes of peace and quiet to calm down, you get 5 minutes of standing at her door, making sure she doesn’t escape or break her window and jump out it. At the end of the five minutes, she may be “sorry” but all we want to do is run screaming down the road. Punishment works, but I wish it were more of a last resort instead of a way we end each evening.

Overall, our parenting moves work for us now most days, although we are constantly adjusting them as Addi gets older and smarter. But we do need to tweak them a bit… I know Addi will coach Sam into getting diamonds and gold from us by the time she’s 4.

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