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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Behavior jars- our journey to positive behavior re-enforcement

The correct way to discipline your children- isn't this the bane of every parents existence? You know you need to discipline so they understand right from wrong and grow to be lovely, valuable, contributing members of society. Heck, sometimes you even want to discipline them- so they know that what they did was wrong, why it was wrong and they won't do it again.

Audrey is still pretty young and learns a lot about what is right to do by watching Walter and the results he gets from his actions.  Which means its doubly important for us to get this right with Walter.  I feel like we have tried every trick in the book with our strong- willed and intelligent son- or some variation of every trick in the book. 

But recently we have found something that actually seems to work for Walter! Now, as I stated in Getting on the Potty Train I know full well that there is no method for anything that will work with every child, every time.  Yet, this has got our four year old re-thinking his negative behaviors in a big way. AND has him really excited about positive behaviors. 

Here's what we did:
1. Got two empty mason jars. Labelled one "Pick your punishment" and the other "Pick your privilege"  
2. Dedicated a surface (we use a corner on the white board we use for home school, but a note pad, chalk board, anything would work) to tracking check marks and "x"s.
3. Created and printed two lists- one of punishments, one of privileges
4. Cut out each punishment/privilege strip and put it in the correct jar

So we are basically using a gentle combination of several different methods.

More or less, if Walter does something the first time he is asked, does something before he was asked, shows kindness/patience or goodwill or does something particularly well he receives a check mark. 
The other day Walter, Audrey and I were walking to meet up with another family at the park for a play date. While we were walking a dog who was unleashed, unsupervised and in an un-fenced front yard dashed at us. This was a loud, large dog. The dog circled, barked and gave chase -while circling- us for almost three blocks. (The owner casually strolling after the dog, even stopping once to light a new cigarette). Audrey was terrified. She was crying and screamed every time the dog put his nose to her belly or legs and barked. I was terrified Walter would become scared and try to run (the dog would have certainly given chase leaving me alone to carry Audrey while chasing a dog and a four year old before harm came to Walter).  But he didn't.  He stood bravely, clutched my hand and said nothing. He was so calm and brave! I was very impressed! As soon as the ordeal was over he was rewarded with a check mark. 
On Tuesday Walter went in for day surgery. He had tubes put in his ears, his tonsils and his adenoids removed.  After he came to, the nurse in the pediatric ward brought him a sweet plush dog to cuddle.  Each child was given a brand new plush toy to comfort them, and the toys were intended to be taken home with the children.  Since we had brought Walter's "Teddy" with him, and since Walter has a bond with "Teddy" he felt no strong pull to the plush dog.  But he called me to his bedside and whispered quietly if it would be okay for him to take the dog home to give to Audrey. Just out of triple surgery, in pain and feeling very sick to his stomach and his thoughts turned to making his baby sister happy.  CHECK MARK! (And he got a third check mark for bring such a good, brave boy in the hospital, of course)

If Walter does something he knows is wrong, hurtful or dishonest or if I have to ask him to do something more than twice, he gets an X.  A few days ago I saw him jumping on the couch. I said nothing, just stood watching him. He spotted me and stopped right away.  I still looked at him- I have told him not to jump on the couch countless times. He said "Mommy, I jumped on the couch" I said "yes, you did".  He said "I have to get an X because I know that is naughty.  But Mommy? I won't do it again". I said "Thank you", and gave him the X.

When either five check marks or five X's have accumulated the five are erased from the board and he chooses from the jars.

That Guy, Walter and I sat down to come up with the privileges and punishments we thought would best motivate Walter, and down the line Audrey.

Here is a quick list of what we have:
Pick a Privilege:
-one extra story at bedtime
-Play pretend with Mom and Dad
- go to the movies with Mom and Dad this month
-choose what is for dinner
- stay outside to play for 15 more minutes
- help Daddy cook dinner
-build a blanket fort
- do a craft with Mommy
-Have a sleep over at Nana and Papa's
- choose a toy for under $10
-have a picnic
* along with a few more. These are all things Walter really enjoys, and somethings we don't always have the time for him to do when ever the whim strikes him- so they are special to him because we have had to say "no" on occasion to some of them before. Most of the privileges are free or very inexpensive. Doing something fun with kids rarely has to cost money.*

Pick a Punishment:
- clean up all the toys by yourself
- no bedtime story tonight
- You are forgiven- please don't do it again
-donate one of your toys to charity *to those of you who are about to say that this will teach my children that giving is a punishment I would like to point out that our family is actively involved in a few core charities. The women at Community Care know my children by name.  The point here is instead to have him choose what item of his he is to give up.  Throwing it away would be wasteful and setting it aside doesn't make the point.*
-help fold the laundry
-clean Audrey's bedroom
-draw a picture about what you did wrong. Explain it to everyone.
-no screen time today
- hold your tongue - Walter gets himself into a lot of trouble by over speaking. Here he must stick out his tongue and hold it between two fingers for one minute.  It has been very successful thus far.
-stamp your feet for one minute - yup, Walter is a foot stomper.  Makes me batty. They think its funny when it starts, but after a few seconds it becomes tiresome and not fun at all.
- go to your room and cry for three minutes - Walter will sometimes turn on the waterworks as a way to persuade us to let him have his way. No dice. I'm not against crying, I am against manipulation. So by telling him to go cry for three minutes it demonstrates that I  will not be swayed by manipulative crying.   Tears are for when your body or your heart hurts, not to get your way.

I am not a parenting expert, and I certainly do not have all the answers.  But this method has been working wonders in our home for several weeks now so I thought I would share. My hope, gentle readers, is that you might be able to pull inspiration from this for something that works in your home too- or not! :)

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