Saturday, September 24, 2011
Easy Peasy Discipline?
If you're new around here, meet "Fudge." Yes, as in "Super Fudge" and yes, that is my kid, on vacation in Aruba of all places, totally rolling his eyes at me. He's 6, curious, precocious, active, and smart as a whip. What's a girl to do?
Well, this girl is tired...as in slap-worn-out-tired. I work full time, I am "Mama" full time, and in between, like most of you, I need to somehow squeeze in being wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, household CEO, planner of the menus, shopper of the groceries, laundry maven, swagger wagon driver, family vet, gardener, and the list goes on, and on, and on. What? I missed posting "maid" too? Have you seen my house? I cannot even claim that title these days. We're a few messes short of a guest spot on Hoarders here, people- keep up!
So what's a girl to do when she realizes she got "the curse that works"? Not heard that one before? It's when your mom/dad said to you sometime in adolescence, "when you are grown I hope you have a child just like YOU." And you, in all of your adolescent glory and total knowledge (because you were the resident expert on EVERYTHING) replied in the sassiest voice you could get away with, "GREAT, I'd love one JUST LIKE ME!". I don't know if I got just like me, or even more challenging, just like me with my brother's mischievous nature and NO FEAR approach to life added in. Are we seeing a correlation here between the month my child turned two and our kitchen renovation including a bar and huge wine rack? Coincidence? No, no...I don't think so.
Now that you know we keep the wine section of Trader Joe's in business despite the downturn in the economy and limited discretionary spending, you also need to know that I am tired of struggling for power. Really, I am over it. The bottom line is free will and choice- I may be able to coerce my child to behave in a desired way, but at the root of the issue, what I really desire is for him to have the freedom to choose to conduct himself in an acceptable manner. I promise, I'll post on the cool things we've been doing and how it's worked, but right now, am more interested in where we are headed.
So a friend I have never met (lovely story for another post) mentioned that she was reading a particular parenting book and it intrigued me. As in no-more-power-struggles-? intrigued me. That is when I finally gave in to Kindle (seriously $9.99 for the Kindle version or $16.99 for the real book, plus shipping costs, plus having to wait for it to be delivered?). Yeah, I broke my I-love-a-book-in-my-hand rule and downloaded the Kindle app. to the iPad 2 my brother generously gave me as a Christmas gift, when they came out this past April. I digress...Kindle, right...we're all on the same page now? Ha- pun discovered and semi-intended.
Instant gratification of the e-book and I read all 185 pages between Fudge getting off the bus yesterday afternoon and my head hitting the pillow last night. Quick, easy read and I KNEW I'd have an opportunity to put the theory to the test in no time. What theory? Well, the basic premise is this- our kids have choices. We help them recognize the best ones, but more importantly we EQUIP them to problem solve from a young age. No helicopter parenting! No struggling for control, and no being upset/impacted by a lousy choice. Focus of our speech is also on what we are going to do. And all of this rolls into nurturing a "heart connection" with our child.
For example, in the past I would have said, "Fudge, please clean up your toys in the front room. I need some office space back...blah, blah, blah." Fudge, of course, has no desire to clean up the mess, so he ignores it. I nag, he ignores, I get angry, he ignores, and somehow we have a battle of wills of cleaning up the office where I am now threatening, punishing, etc. The toys may finally get picked up, but with way too much drama and emotional energy expended. What did I really need to do? Focus on my actions and remain a calm, happy parent while offering choices.
Sound too good to be true? I thought it was, but what did I have to lose? I put it to the test. This evening I told Fudge, "I am getting ready to do some major cleaning in the office. Any toys I find after next Sunday will be packed up, sold, or given away- it's your choice what you leave in there and what you put away upstairs." Now, you can't say it with an attitude- it really needs to be in the tone of sweetness and love. Wow, suddenly I have a happy helper, interested in doing some major sorting and cleaning. No nagging, no threats, etc. And Fudge has a choice to clean up or to let me clean up and decide what happens with all of that stuff. Whatever he decides, it's his choice to make, and either way, I get a cleaner office. We have positive and negative consequences for each choice we make, every day, in our lives.
I tried a similar approach this morning...we are already getting into the being pokey in the morning, then missing the bus routine. I saw the signs of it this morning and I told Fudge with plenty of warning that, "If you miss the bus, you'll need to figure out how to get to school." Really, it was said so nicely. Fudge looked at me like I was smoking something. He remained pokey, and no surprise, missed the bus. I didn't say a word. In my mind, I approached it as "not my problem."
The rest went something like this:
Fudge: "I need to get to school."
Fudge: "I need to get there!"
Me: "So how are you going to do that?"
Fudge: "Well, I can't walk by myself. It's too far and not safe."
Me: "I agree."
Fudge: "Can you drive me please? I don't want to be tardy."
Me: "Hmm...want some help thinking through this?"
Fudge: "Yes, please."
Me: "Well, I suppose I could drive you, but that is like a taxi service, huh?"
Me: "I guess you could hire me for ride."
Fudge: "Ok...how much?"
Me: "I get $5 for the first taxi ride, and I add $5 for each time the bus is missed taxi ride. So today, is $5. But if you miss the bus on Monday it's $10, time after that is $15, well, you know how to count by fives."
Fudge: "Ok, $5 then."
Me: "Super, I'll get my keys."
No screaming "Oh my gosh, you missed the bus AGAIN!" No yelling to hurry up and get teeth brushed, shoes tied, backpack on, etc. Nope- I was calm and cool as he dallied this morning. To be fair, I reminded Fudge that if he missed the bus, he'd need to figure out how to get to school. He decided to call my cards and see if I was bluffing. I was not- and that's another key, you have to follow through.
So, this afternoon when Fudge got home I greeted him as I always do- a big hug and kiss and "how was your day?" And this was followed by, "Now about that $5, I take cash or coin. Of course, if you don't have $5, I am sure we could find a toy to sell for the $5- it's your choice, however you want to come up with the money." Again, sweet tone and he looked at me like I was INSANE, but didn't say a word. Fudge disappeared upstairs and I heard the piggy bank rattling.
He returned downstairs with a handful of coins. We counted them together and got up to $1.78, then I assisted him with the math on how much more he needed to come up with. Fudge went back to his room and came back with more change, which he had to count. He got the total up to $3.78 and was still short, this time by $1.22. When I mentioned I saw a couple of dollar bills on his bookshelf he indignantly declared, "That's Tooth Fairy money!" I just said, "oh, ok...well, you are a smart boy and I know you can figure this out. Let me know if you need help."
Fudge disappeared one more time and returned with a dollar bill and 22 pennies that he had counted out, bringing us to full $5. What really made my heart soar is when he gave it over willingly, without an attitude. I even said, "oh, I thought that was Tooth Fairy money?" to which he replied, "yeah, but it's just a dollar and I am the one who missed the bus and I agreed to pay for my ride like we said. I can earn more dollars." PROUD MAMA MOMENT HERE- but wait, it gets better.
I thanked Fudge for the $5. It would have been less painful for me and easier for him if I'd said, "The $5? Don't worry about that- I call grace." And had I said that, I'd find myself nagging week after week about hurry up, don't miss the bus, and I'd be driving him to school again, and again, and again. I stuck to our arrangement and here's what else I got...
I asked Fudge if he learned anything from this morning, and he CHEERFULLY (again, shocking) said, "Yes. I need to choose to not be pokey in the morning, so that I can get the bus on time, and I won't have to pay a taxi." We'll see how the coming weeks go, but I know one thing- Fudge thought about his actions, his choices, and the consequences. He problem-solved and he kept his commitment. Fudge experienced that we choose our consequences and he decided that moving forward he chooses to not be pokey in the morning and to be ready for the bus. Nagging would have never gotten us there! Yelling, threats, and stress would not have gotten us to that revelation. Instead, I peacefully gave Fudge the space to be responsible for his choices and the outcome was beautiful. I know it won't always work this smoothly, but for today, in this moment, I call victory and amen!