Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taking Back The Power

A few weeks ago, when my friend Trista was here with her husband and baby, I came to a bad realization.  My girls were starting to get out of control.  They weren't listening to me at all,  talking back and throwing tantrums more than ever.  I had become somewhat complacent because, to be honest, sometimes I just get tired of doing this job. (Sorry Trista and Jesse for the girls' bad behavior). Then we went to visit Andy at work later that same week, and I saw even more clearly how unruly they were becoming. We went to say hi to his boss and the girls did everything but turn the place upside down, ignoring every "no, stop that" Andy and I uttered.  Yeah, it wasn't good.  I realized I had to do something.  I couldn't let them continue to act like crazy kids.  I know that children aren't going to be well behaved all the time, but I did not want to have those kids who were terrible constantly.  So, I decided to seek help in a book called
 1-2-3 Magic, by Dr. Thomas W. Phelan.

This is a book I read years ago, when Sonya was younger and starting to show signs of insubordination.  I put it into practice back then and it worked.  I've tried to continue to use it, but you know, things fall by the wayside after a while.  Having babies fifteen months apart will do that to you.  So, I decided I needed a refresher course.

 I pulled the book off the shelf and skimmed through it hitting the major points.  The basic idea is that you use counting to stop bad behavior like, talking back, yelling, fighting, tantrums, etc.  We all mostly use counting to three in some form, as have I. The key is to not get stuck on two....two and haaallllfff... and to also keep your emotions out of it.  Something I have a VERY hard time with.  I sometimes am the one having the temper tantrums.  When you get to a count of three, they get a time out or another consequence you've established.  In our house the key thing to take away is treats.  In other houses it might be TV or video games, but neither of those works for us.  They could care less about video games and rarely watch TV anymore.  But'd think I was taking away Christmas.  The other half of the discipline is to use timers or charts for "start behaviors".  This includes cleaning their rooms, unloading the dishwasher, or even eating dinner.  That last one is for Lana.  If they don't get whatever they are supposed to get done in their allowed amount of time, they have a consequence.  If it's cleaning their rooms and it's not done in the twenty minutes I give them, then I take all the toys not in their proper place and put them in a garbage bag. Then they go off to the garage until the next evening.  If Lana doesn't eat her dinner in twenty minutes-or most of it-then she misses out on any type of bread we are having or a dessert, if that is offered.  I know, I'm mean, but damn if it didn't start to work.

I explained the rules to the girls when I started this a few weeks back.  They all understood, but they were all taken aback by how serious I was about this.  I think that first week everyone had at least one or two timeouts a day and there were no treats for anyone for at least five days.  It was a rough week, as they figured out how serious I was about this.  Lana and Georgia lost half their toys to the garage one night.  I know they didn't think I would do it, but I sure did.  They cried for fifteen minutes about their lost toys.  Here's the thing, it's not like they were cleaning that whole time and just ran out of time to finish.  If that was the case I would give them more time to clean up their mess.  However, twenty minutes is more than enough time for them to do what needs to be done.  They just chose to screw around for the first twelve minutes.  Turns out eight minutes is NOT enough time for them to clean up their huge mess.  The next night they had everything cleaned up in ten.  They were not about to lose their toys for a second night.  If nothing else, they learn quickly!

After a week, I was giddy with how well my new strategy was working.  They were doing what they were asked.  The back talk and eye rolls were kept to a minimum, and I was actually starting to like them again.  Then we had a backslide last week for a few days, where they didn't want to listen and I may have been a bit more irritable, letting my emotions get the better of me at times.  PMS.  It happens.  What can you do?   So it's not a perfect system, because I'm not perfect and neither are they, but it's one that seems to be working a lot better than what I was doing before.  Before it was just a lot of me yelling and giving up.   I feel more in control and better about my parenting.  I even started a star chart for them to encourage their good behavior.  I didn't want things to be taken away from them only.  They needed to want to be good for something, not just so they wouldn't lose treats.   So now when they do something good, or do a chore when asked the first time, I let them color in a star.  When they get to the end of the stars-14 of them-they get to pick a prize from the prize box.  Otherwise known as the $1 Target bin.  

The girls are not always happy with this new system and sometimes become more irritated when I start to count them.  This,  of course, leads me to the next number sooner and usually lands them in time out.  They can't be good all the time, but this is definitely helping them learn to make better choices and become more well behaved.  I guess I didn't realize how much this was annoying them, or at least Sonya, until I was in her room changing her sheets last week.  Her closet door was open and I noticed a paper on the floor with her writing.  It looked like one of her "projects" she likes to work on, so I picked it up to see what she was working on, then laughed aloud when I saw this:

I guess she really wasn't happy with the new system, and this was her way of getting back at me.  It makes sense, because she was probably the one most affected.  Lana is used to time outs, and Georgia doesn't really get in trouble all that often.  Sonya, however, had been getting difficult for me to deal with. She had more timeouts and treats taken away in that first week than I'm sure either of us care to admit.  She gets it now, and is starting to be more respectful of me.  Something she was seriously lacking before, which was my fault for not teaching her or demanding it more.  

We all let our kids get out of control every once in a while, but the important thing is to recognize it and reel them in before they get to "Oh my god!  Did you see what that little girl did??" status.  It's never to late to discipline your kids.  If you need help, I highly recommend this book, although I'm sure there's other great ones out there.  The important thing is to just do it.  It will suck for everyone for a couple weeks and might even seem to stop working from time to time, but keep with it.  Those of us who are trying to do everything we can to raise our kids to be good people, don't want our kids to have nothing but assholes to associate with in the future, just because their parents didn't feel like disciplining them.  Don't let me fool you into thinking I know it all, however.  I still suck at this some days, but I  just keep trying.   This job is tough but you can't give up, even if there are days you want to.  If you do, you let the terrorists win.   At least that's what I've heard.  


Rachel said...

I soooo get the never-ending back-talking & all around not wanting to listen.... sounds like a book I need to check out.. thanks for the recommendation!

Hollyhome said...

Can I borrow that book? NEVERMIND I don't have time to read....Can I drop my girls off for a weekend boot camp session?

I recently had to take back the power here! Partially why I have taken a break from blogging...I had to focus up...and I am WAY more tired than normal laid back Mommy version of me :)