Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grab Bag (Behavior)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Summer has a lot of rewards in the long easy flowing days. But there can also be loooong days to navigate with three different interests and strong personalities. A week and a half into it and I can see I have a few choices:

1. Mostly ignore the sassy behavior and competitive nature brewing and take the Darwinian approach. They probably won't kill themselves and it would certainly be easier on me--not to mention my house would probably be spotless. If I wasn't 'on duty' I'd have plenty of time to tend to those baseboards and reorganizing projects that are piling up.

2. Be a drill sergeant and let them know who is boss. Children who are afraid don't act out. Discipline is the foundation for all success.

3. Follow my instincts (they've been spot on so far) and acknowledge the good behavior, even tossing in some incentives for good measure. I'm not talking about pumping little miss sassy up to an over-inflated self esteem, but rather find her currency and use it. Grab bag behavior modification.

And so, after a night of completely zoning out and talking myself off the ledge (What happened to my children and why are they acting so spoiled?! Am I raising brats? Maybe we should move to wilderness where they are totally isolated and can't ever stray to an ungrateful or naughty path.) I decided to play the game to win. (I am an Aries and we only play to win.)

Realizing that I can't completely isolate them, nor would I want to, and they aren't lost yet I need to speak into their listening. I have been disciplining like a fool and only getting mediocre results. Clearly I'm not scary enough (but I'm ok with that) or that approach doesn't really motivate my kiddos.

While I am fully aware there are shelves of parenting books on this topic and plenty of good people who would argue the merits of unspoiling my kids with $1 treats from a grab bag, I have found this approach to yield the best results. Still, the irony is not lost on me. (Note: This method is well suited for my six and seven year old, not quite my two year old.)

1. Gather $1 (or less) trinkets that your kids will like. I fill a basket with things like baseball cards, notecards, embellishments, craft tools, books, stickers, chapstick, etc. I have one going all the time and fill it when I see things they are interested in. I don't spend a lot of money and sometime will even make something. Adding an 'experience' (back rub from mom) is a big hit too.

2. Start with basic goals. For example, my big kids need to work on how they talk and how they listen. They are also practicing to make the right choice even when people around them may not have the same rules. Since we are in a bit of boot camp, they have a chance every day to earn something from the grab bag. But the days are long and these are big goals right now.

3. They have to be good and helpful the entire day. Additionally, offering to help with a sibling or a household chore that isn't theirs without being asked is a good lead into grab bag.

4. When they master that level, increase the bar. Such as, going the whole week before they can earn turn at the grab bag. I have some friends who work on a weekly goal and get a bigger treat at the end of that. I say do what works for your crowd. For us, we are in a puppy training mode and have more of a choke collar approach--quick corrections with a biscuit waiting.

I find that keeping them engaged and aware of their choices seems to work better than the constant discipline. And, truth be told, having a loose plan helps me get through another day, week and month without suffering from complete burnout. Tomorrow is a new day.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Our kids are not awful, in spite of the picture I paint today, but I know what they are capable of--I've seen it. It is my fervent belief that kids will push and try for as much as they can. It's human nature. Our kids are very developed in this area but still thoughtful loving people with good hearts. That's what I want to see more of. And I suspect there are plenty of moms with very good kids who can relate to my summertime (really anytime) challenges.


Adrienne Hedger said...

Good job, Sarah. Play to win.

Anonymous said...

I fight this dilemma every day! It's draining!

mybelle68 said...

I'm an end of week prize mom, but maybe daily grab bag might work for my younger one better.

Sarah's Fab Day said...

A mom after my own heart. My husband and I have been talking about how sassy our 5 year old has been lately. This might be the pefect approach for our vexing problem.