P is for Progress

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Yesterday my baby girl turned five. That is seriously nuts.

She had a great birthday and is pretty thrilled about being five. With all of the craziness that has been our lives lately, I never got around to planning a party for either of the kids. Ace wanted to "have the zact same party as Archie." Which was swimming at our pool, eating dinner, and having some cake. She brought two little girl friends from her class at school, and they had a blast. On the way home Ace told me it was, "the best birthday party ever." So that was nice. I wish I knew she was always going to be that easy to please.

Even though it was her birthday, we did not take the day off from Behavior Boot Camp. I came up with my plan after my last post last Wednesday, and put it into action Thursday morning. I realized right off the bat that I was going to have to be very intentional in this process of reversing these bad habits Ace had developed. I sat down with her, explained that it was seriously time, now that she was turning five, to start having better manners and speaking to people when spoken to. She agreed. Of course, we had had that exact same conversation many times before, and it never changed a darn thing, so I introduced her to her brand new Behavior Book. (The book which she informed me last night as we were driving down the freeway that she was going to throw out the window). So yeah, it's been working.

For those of you who emailed me or commented after my last post that you were struggling with the same issues with your little one, here's how it's going down at our house. I got an index card book, some stickers that she got to pick out herself for good behavior, and some red dot stickers for the not so good behavior.

I wrote down exactly how the "game" would work. I consider it a game, because it pretty much is.
So she EARNS:
1 point (marked by a sticker) for saying "hello" to someone when they say "hello" to her
1 point for eye contact during said "hello"
2 points for saying the individual's name after said "hello"
1 point for answering a question ("how are you?" "how is school?" "did you have a fun day at camp?")
3 points for asking a question ("how are you?" "how was your day?")

Points can only be earned if she speaks loudly and clearly enough for the other person to hear her. (We also have problems with low-talk mumbling. And we all know how annoying a low talker can be.

(You're welcome for the captions)

And then she LOSES:
3 points for ignoring someone 
5 points for making a rude comment to someone

I have found the best way of keeping track of her points is by using the voice recorder on my phone. I try to do it when no one is around but if you hear me mumbling, "said 'hello' to Suzie, made eye contact, said name", into my phone...that's whats happening. Then at the end of the day, we write them all down in her book, she puts her stickers in, and we add them up, and subtract the bad ones. I even have her do the math. I know, I know- slow down, mother of the year. 

The pay off for her is every 10 points earned equals one dollar. I know many people do not agree with paying children for good behavior. I get it. I googled the hell out of the issue and as with everything there are a million views on both sides of the argument. But this is what is working for us. The reward needs to be tangible for her, and money is the best motivator I have found. And as we moms always say to each other, "whatever works". So let's just go with that. 

I am trying to set her up as often as possible to succeed, which means I am also setting her up as often as possible to fail. One of my favorite parts of the Parenting with Love and Logic system is giving your kids the opportunity to fail. Cause at the end of the day she is going to learn more from those red stickers that are taking her points away, than anything else. And these small failures while she is still this little is much better than bigger failures when she is not so little anymore. 

The earning points part is very obvious and concrete. The loss of points have been a little trickier, and Joey and I have found ourselves in some pretty funny conversations, discussing whether or not certain comments call for loss of points, or whether they were just funny. I never would have imagined that I would so often be trying to discern between my five year old's sarcasm being inappropriate, or perfectly timed and delivered. For example last night we went to my Mother-in-Law's house to celebrate the kids' birthdays with Joey's side of the family. At one point, Ace and Archie were playing hide-and-go seek with Joey's Aunt. She was doing a really good job of pretending she couldn't find them, and then being super shocked whenever she did...you know, the typical "seeking" of small children that adults do. But on the last round, the kids were pretty much standing in plain sight, as Aunt L looked around....wondering where they could possibly be. And Ace says to Archie (loudly), "well she is really not very good at this game."

Joey and I had to call a sidebar on that one. 
It went like this:

Me: What do you think? Does she lose a point for that one?
Joey: I don't know...it was pretty funny..
Me: Yeah, but was it also rude, or just funny? I mean she was kidding....
Joey: But are we okay with that kind of kidding?
Me: I'm not sure, but it really was a good one...
Joey: Yeah it really was.

Later during a conversation with Joey's sister, she and Ace were discussing an upcoming swim meet that she was going to try to come to. Their convo went like this:
Aunt Abby: Ace, I am going to try to come to your swim meet on Thursday!
Ace: Well, do you even know how to get there?
Aunt Abby: No, I don't, could you give me directions?
Ace: Um, yeah, how about this- GET LOST!

On that one, everyone in the room cracked up. Including myself. It was just too good.

But, it left me and Joey having the same conversation. 

The last thing I want to have come out of all of this is to completely squash her hilariousness. But she doesn't have the ability at age five, to determine when her jokes are appropriate and when they are not. Or who she can joke with like that, and who she really shouldn't. Like with both of her Aunts, and both of her Uncles, it is totally fine. She is very close to each of them, and they mess with her, and she has just learned to hold her own with them. But then, of course, with people we just met, like the one I wrote about in my last post, it is not cool. And it can cause some serious awkwardness. 

The thing with Ace is she is such a good kid. She is so loved by all of her teachers who are constantly bragging on her. She is extremely compassionate, sensitive, a major rule follower and is very respectful to teachers, coaches, counselors, etc. (Apparently even more so when I am not around). She just needs to be reigned in a bit, and replace some of these bad habits with good ones. 

So anyway, we are on Day 6, and already she has made HUGE progress. We are going to be keeping this up throughout the entire summer. And then by the time she starts her new school in the Fall, it should all just come naturally. The next step that I am starting to work on now is weaning my cues. There are still times when I have to give her a look, or a little hand-squeeze, or even the most annoying, "Ace, what do you say?" Before long I am going to have to let her soar on her own in this and she won't be able to earn points for times when I had to give her any sort of cue. 

We're gettin' there!

Lots of Love!


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