My son Payten, who is three going on thirteen, has lately been having a hard time when he doesn’t get his way. Being a kind big brother, obedient son, and helpful member of the household is tough when you’re only “this many.” He has become incredibly controlling, having a meltdown if I don’t cover him “right” at bedtime, or if Madison or Dylan don’t cooperate with a game he’s invented. His newest and favorite response to instruction is, “You can’t tell me that!” or some variation of the same idea.
My impulse is to discipline him for his cheek, but I realize, too, that he’s learning to assert his opinion and take a stance. He needs to learn how to do that appropriately, but I want him to understand that he’s very important, and his feelings are too! Its a fine line, disciplining him for his attitude and not his feelings on a subject. At three, a child is just starting to understand that they have control over their emotional reactions to things, and I feel that punishing him would only hurt his self image and possibly even make matters worse, as he could become agitated and want to make his feelings known even more.
So we decided to, as a family, sit down and write out some Family Rules; these are standards we all must follow, no matter where we are. Everyone participated and added a rule. (I cheated a little and added Madison’s for her! ^_^) We then reviewed and wrote out the consequences for not following the rules, as well as happy consequences for doing well! (Payten suggested we have a birthday for him every time he followed a rule. teehee) So here they are.
Bruce Family Rules
1. (Mama) No yelling, screaming, or hurting. Use words to tell us how you feel!
2. (Daddy) Put away your things when you are through with them.
3. (Dylan) Play nicely and share.
4. (Payten) Listen to Mama and Daddy and obey quickly.
5. (Madison and Mama) Respect the other people in the house (to which Payten added) and God.
1. Warning; reminder of the rule
2. Time Out
3. Privilege or sticker removed
1. Sticker on “good day” chart
2. Privilege added
3. If both boys get 5 “Good day!” stickers: Fun day out!
Now, If Payten talks back, I just have to point out rule number 4 and 5. Even though he’s not reading that well yet, it is working! Having them posted means that the rules are LAW, the discipline concrete, and the rewards tangible. I think it helps, too, because I read the applicable rule to them when there is an infraction, and they hear them over and over again in exactly the same way. In the past, I might say, “No yelling!” or I might beg them, “Please, lower your volume!” I realize now that, to a toddler, it seemed as though we had a million rules, and remembering them was impossible, let alone following them!
The reward chart is fun, even for me! When they do something very well, like playing together without fighting, completing their chores, or obeying quickly, they get a sticker. Five stickers make a good day, and five good days means a special privilege. They can choose their privileges from computer time, T.V. time, board game, etc. If both boys get five good days, then its Family Fun time! This time, Mama and Daddy get to surprise the boys with a trip to the museum, zoo, or just to the park for a picnic and kite flying.
Since they have to work together for the last reward, it keeps them both on their toes and aware of how their behavior affects the other. If Dylan takes Payten’s toy, and Payten reacts by hitting then they both lose out on a potential sticker. But if he keeps his cool, then he gets his toy back, Dylan gets a warning, and the issue is resolved, Family Fun day still within reach. Its amazing to me how two and three year old brothers can really work things out on their own! I’ve overheard them reminding each other of their chores, witnessed them helping each other, and Payten has even begun bargaining with them! “If you let me play with your farm Lego’s, I’ll take your dishes to the kitchen after dinner!”
Our home has been so much more peaceful in these last few days since we implemented the new technique. No Family Fun days yet, but they each have 3 “Good Days” on their charts. Hopefully, here in two days I’ll be able to let you know how it goes! :)
What challenges have you faced as a parent, and what have you used to combat them?