I think it was when he decided to sit on my head while I was laying on the couch. The whole family had been inflicted with a nasty head cold, with Brian and I operating at about half-capacity and Scotty grumbling and coughing through the day. My attempt at a tiny bit of rest was disturbed by the Bear placing a large decorative pillow on my head. "I am going to sit on you, Momma," he informed calmly, like this was an everyday occurrence. "No, Scotty, don't sit there. You are going to smush me." "No, I'm going to sit on you." "No, Scott, you are hurting me." "No, Mommy, stay still. I want to sit on your head." "No, Scott! Stop. Stop! STOP!"
And then I erupted off the couch like an angry bear, growling at my cub. He looked at me defiantly and promptly started screaming.
This was the straw that broke the camel's back. This power struggle, this ridiculous interplay between parent and child, is so freaking annoying. Yes, I know they are "practicing" life skills on us, but I only have so much patience. And with both ears plugged, a sore throat and mucus running freely from my face, my patience was waning, to say the least.
It also didn't help that I read a blog entry from another mommy blogger about how she stopped yelling at her kids. I read it with mixed feelings. I don't consider myself much of a yeller (or maybe I am and totally not aware?), but I think sometimes...(big gasp)...yelling is necessary. We are not gracious hostesses to our children. We are not tour guides in their lives, quietly pointing out landmarks with a half-smile. We are their parents, and if a major message needs to be conveyed (like, "DON'T RUN IN THE PARKING LOT!" or "DO NOT TAKE THAT BOY'S TOY!"), well, I'm going to shout it. If it's a dangerous or egregious situation, it's my job - and only my job - to make sure that message gets across as effectively and quickly as possible. (Let it be known, I was also a little confused as to what defined "yelling" - a raised tone, blame, anger, hurtful words, name-calling, shame, defensiveness, not to mention all of the non-verbal ways you can put a kid down. I know I'm being really annoying right now, but this is also the same person who spent a semester in graduate school watching therapy tapes and quantifying the degree of "negativity" in the first session as a predictor of outcome success. Fascinating stuff. Like watching paint dry. But it's just the way my brain works). I give the author lots of credit and wish her the best - it was a well-written piece and certainly got me thinking.
So anyways, I've got this blog entry swirling in my little brain, a child sitting on my head, and the feeling that this behavior must end. We cannot keep highlighting all of the negative things Scotty is doing. Although I reserve my right to raise my voice when I deem necessary, it's clear what I'm doing is having little impact. Quite frankly, it's not fun for any of us.
So I broke out a random hybrid of a rock jar/sticker chart.
1.) There are two jars on the counter. The goal is to get as many rocks into the empty jar by the end of the day.
2.) Rocks are earned by doing excellent, wonderful things. When you are three, this may include a.) remembering to cover your mouth when you cough, b.) picking up your toys when asked and c.) putting on your socks all by yourself.
3.) There are no rocks earned for doing what it expected - using a polite tone, saying "please" and "thank you," carrying your dishes to the counter after a meal.
4.) Rocks are taken away as a result of egregious behavior (Second time I've used the word "egregious" in this entry. I must really be stressed out.) This includes name calling, naughty words, not following directions, and talking back.
5.) At the end of the day, we count the number of rocks earned. If it is greater than 10, he earns a sticker. The sticker goes on a chart, and if he accrues 5 or more stickers in a week, he earns whatever reward he'd like. Right now, the hot commodity in our house is a Saturday ice cream date with Dad. (Mom is lactose-intolerant). Didn't earn 10 rocks? No sticker. But we start fresh everyday. Everyday is a new chance for rocks!
How is it going?
DAY 1: Scotty LOVED the green rocks (which, by the way, were from a flower arrangement from my 28th birthday. I think it was a giant flower margarita. Thanks, Dad). He, like all toddlers, loves shiny things. AND - he loved the idea of being able to move the rocks himself. It's a perfect physical representation of "good" and "progress" for a very concrete thinker.
By the afternoon, he had earned 8 rocks. Like potty training, I got the distinct feeling he caught on quickly and then started mocking us. After all, at lunch, he told Brian he earned "only 2 rocks for being kind of a good Daddy" while I earned "10 rocks, for being an great Mommy!" (Weee! I love winning!) He cleaned up his toys, was polite, lovely, and an all-around joy. We finally got through story hour at the library. He made it through swimming lessons without screaming like a banshee, and even reported that "despite being scared, I wanted my rock." And with that, we now have a little Bear who puts his face in the water. (progress!)
When he chose to throw a squishy ball in my face (ow), I didn't say a word - I just marched over to the jar and removed one rock. The look on his face said it all. He was horrified. And regretful. He didn't throw the ball at me again.
DAY 2: He's already earned four rocks and he was only up for approximately 25 minutes before rushing off to school. I may need to rethink these numbers. But I guess if he's behaving himself, it's win-win, right? And cutest thing ever - he told me he "dreamed about golden rocks." I guess we are getting to him.
If this doesn't work, we'll just leave him unattended at the library. I snapped this photo yesterday because it literally made me laugh out loud. Looks like those librarians have it all figured out.