My girls have been pretty ornery lately.
Tantrums, drama, fighting, sassy mouths, arguing, refusal to do as they are asked, eye-rolling.
Yes, eye-rolling! Complete with huffing and puffing sounds!! What on Earth?! They are two and three - isn't the eye-rolling supposed to come later in life? Like in the pre-teen years? And for the record, nothing gets a mother's blood boiling like having a kid roll there eyes at you. No wonder my mom hated that! LOL Sorry, mom!
I am trying to raise young women with grace and class, good manners, and empathy for others. I want them to tell the truth, know the difference between right and wrong, and be grateful for each other and the things that they have. I am trying to raise ladies of outstanding character.... But sometimes I wonder if I am raising wild animals instead. Actually, I think that sometimes a herd of wildebeests or a pack of wolves has more manners than these two cute little girls do. It is like living in a zoo.
We already have set rules in our house. I remember years ago before we had kids, I heard a friend of my husband's five sisters discussing discipline for their kids. One of them (who has a bunch of kids herself) said that they had a certain set of House Rules that she had come up with to make their lives run more smoothly. These rules were so basic - vague enough to encompass all situations, and easy enough for even little ones to understand - but they really reflected the types of values that I want to send my own children out into the world with. I never forgot them. So, I did what any smart mom would do and I shamelessly stole them. LOL They have been slightly adjusted over time to suit our needs, but they are fundamentally the same.
And here they are:
Use kind words and a kind tone.
Tell the truth.
Be respectful to people and things.
Keep hands, feet and teeth to yourself.
Listen to Mom and Dad.
Clean up after yourself.
Choose to have a great day.
There. Now you can steal them from me. :-)
As for getting my girls to follow these rules, we have had periods of success and periods that were not quite so successful.
At first, just reminders and talking about the rules with Hayden (and by proxy Carly because she still was/is little) was enough. They were new and fun and she liked having something to "remind" us about.
Then, the novelty wore off and it was back to the drawing board.
We moved on to a sticker chart - follow the rules all day, get a sticker; not so great behavior, try again tomorrow. Certain number of stickers, get a prize. This worked okay. Hayden will do anything for the eventual promise of buying some new Legos, so she would work for her sticker at the end of the day - but there was one catch. No one on earth - even you or me - can be good ALL THE TIME. On the days that we had a hard time and had to tell Hayden that she would have to try again tomorrow, it was just devastating for her. It ruined many a bedtime because she just wanted a sticker. It was just too black and white for her little brain and I think that the message was getting lost.
The truth is that even on the days that a kid has a hard time, they surely had at least one shining moment that day. Even if they spent the day in and out of timeout, even if they broke every single rule and you are ready to drop them off at a church or a firehouse, I am willing to bet that they said please and/or thank you without a reminder at least one time that day, or maybe helped pick up toys or cleaned up their lunch dishes or some other little thing that warranted recognition.
I love the positive reinforcement of the sticker chart, but I feel like it just wasn't clear enough. I need to try harder to focus in on and acknowledge all of the good things that my girls are doing - and focus a little less on the negative - even on the hard days. If the good behavior is the focus and the bad is simply met with a time-out and then it's over, the hope is that we (the parents) will be rewarded with more good behavior. Perhaps if they are more aware of the small things they can do to follow the rules, our days can be a little less of a zoo - and they will feel more inclined to do the things that earn a reward. And I will feel less inclined to actually drop them off at the zoo.
So, with that in mind, I have come up with a new plan of attack.
Today we made some Reward Jars.
Here's what I used - you might even have most of these things (or something else that will work) laying around the house, but if you don't they are cheap and reusable.
-1 clear jar per kid (I am using pint mason jars, but you can use a pickle jar or a plastic cup or bottle, or whatever you have. I like the clear ones because they have a constant visual reminder of how close they are to their goal)
-A whole bunch of plastic beads (I have also seen jars like this where people used Pom-poms or marbles - any small manageable thing that you have a bunch of will work. I wanted something that my girls would think was fun and these beads were a variety pack that happens to have animals and sparkly beads and other things they thought were fun. I also wanted something that would fill the jars up at a reasonable rate of speed - as in not taking a year to fill up if I was handing out a lot of beads, but not being filled up in one afternoon. Also, as a bonus, they were only $5 for a big old tub.)
-Stickers for decorating (Totally optional, but it helped my girls get excited to earn some beads for their jars, and the time they spent decorating was a great time to talk about how our new plan was going to work.)
So the plan is that the girls can earn beads by following the House Rules and doing it with a happy heart. There is no cap on how many beads that they can earn in one day, or even in one sitting, Just every time that Daddy or I feel that they are really being the great kids that we know they are - saying kind things to each other, using good manners, cleaning up a mess without having any drama, being helpful, going to nap without a tantrum, etc. - they get to add a bead to their jar. When the jar is full to the top, they will get a very special treat. Knowing my Lego-crazy Hoot and the fact that she has a baby sis who wants to be just like her, they will want Legos of course! :-)
So far, so good. Even Carly (age 2) is reminding her sister that if they do good things, they will get to pick a bead. They went to nap today with ZERO drama, woke up happy, put on shoes and are now pretending that they are Trick-or-Treating in the backyard as I type. They have earned several beads each and are very proud. I like that it feels like I am trying to catch them being kind and having good behavior and not dreading the end of the day when I have to tell them that they don't get a sticker because they had to sit in time out earlier in the day. I love that we are all focusing on the positive.
It is so simple!! BE GOOD = GET SOMETHING GOOD! I will keep you updated on how this plan works for us. Hopefully we are on the right track to acting more like Classy Little Ladies and less like a herd to unruly wildebeests - because Mama can't take it anymore! LOL
What kinds of things do you do in your home to help your kids learn good behavior? How do you adjust your "program" as they get older? What kind of incentives do your kids work for? Leave me a comment! :-)