Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guilt, Bribery & M&M's

I realized this week that guilt trips and bribery are the cornerstones of my parenting philosophy. Before having children, I imagined reading to them all day by a sunny window - the kids curled up close with big smiles on their cherubic faces.  I imagined them watching minimal -if any- TV, as we'd be too busy with art projects and strolling around the stores while they sat quietly in their double stroller people watching.  Here's the reality - someone always has to ruin the fun of doing an art project.  It always turns into a full blown fiasco where they disagree over what kind of project we'll do, and then once we decide - someone starts whining and ineviitibly does something unpleasant like coloring their stomachs in green marker or gluing construction paper shapes to the dining room curtains.

Grocery shopping - or as I like to call it - "grab stuff that looks vaguely edible and throw it the shopping cart before there's a meltdown" - can be a pleasant experience so long as I've added Rum to my coffee beforehand made sure the kids understand that if they make it through the store and LISTEN to mommy, I'll buy them M&M's at the checkout.  Yes, it makes perfect sense - M&M's in exchange for 20 minutes of grocery shopping bliss - seems fair to me.  But what happens when a wiley 3 year old decides to challenge this little understanding we've set up?   Bribes no longer doing the trick???  WHAT?!  I obviously need to up the ante here.  And so last week when Ben decided he longer wished to bathe - ever - I explained to him that he wouldn't be able to watch TV at all that day, then.  "Ok Mama, I'll just read" is not what I expected to hear from him.  I thought for sure there'd be a meltdown of sorts....especially when Lauren got her "TV time" and Ben didn't.  Nope, he stuck to his guns. The following day, when no bath and no TV looked like it was going to be commonplace, I decided I needed to change my approach.  I tried reasoning with him, explaining it just wasn't an option not to bathe.  I tried "getting tough" - by that I mean I told him he had to take a bath in a very stern voice, hands on hips.  No response.  By day 3, I was desperate.  So I consulted a friend with preschool teaching experience.  "Do I FORCE Ben to take a bath??"  I asked her?  We batted some ideas around, and decided that this was normal 3 year old behavior and that he was challenging me to see what he could get away with. We also concluded that every kid responds to a different type of discipline.  Some use the reward system (check), some use the consequence system (check), some you can reason with and convince (check)...what else could I do? 

And so I fake cried (just for the record, this was NOT the advice of my teacher friend).  I pretended to be sad so that Ben wouldn't listen to Mommy.  And it worked.  At first he didn't know what to make of it.  He stopped dead in his tracks...Mommy's upset????  He came running over to hug me, and in between "sniffles" I managed to say "I just want you to listen Ben!  I'm sad you won't take a bath."   And simple as that, he hauled his little tush upstairs and said "I want a bath, Mama.."   And there you have it - Guilt.  I'm guessing you won't find this method in the Parenting For Dummies books, and I highly doubt that Supernanny will be advising her clients to fake cry to get their kids to to what they want.  However, I will say that since I discovered this little gem, it's been a wonderful couple of days.  I think what it comes down to is all the praise he gets once he listens.  For every time he listens, he gets a sticker -and after 10 stickers a little treat :)    Eventually I guess the fake crying will fall by the wayside, as I can't imagine this will work when wants to stay out late with the guys after football practice.  But for now, I'll be getting this fake cry down to a science in order to perfect my skills ;)

1 comment:

  1. These techniques work on kids young and old. Signed,
    Jim, A victim of bribery and sucker for fake out techniques by his loved one.