Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Exiling Elmo

The Hubs and I grew up in homes where our parents lived month to month. Parents who worked very hard for the money they earned. Parents who didn't have a lot of extra income to splurge. We remember wanting things that we never did get. We remember being told no. Lots.

This is NOT a bad thing.

I do feel though, that it has affected the way we parent now. The whole 'giving our kids what we didn't have' thing. Conscious or not, I think that affects the yes or no dilemma at the check out stand. Oh, what the heck, it's only $3.

I read this brilliant quote which I'm sure to butcher here. Something about my generation (or maybe my parents' generation? or maybe both...) being so busy giving our kids what we didn't have, that we are forgetting to give them what we did.

It is important to me that my kids are not spoiled. That they not become the kids who think they are entitled to getting their way. That they be humble and polite and kind. It is really important to me. So much so, that sometimes it leads me to shout at my four-year old.

I grabbed them each a toy on my way out the door. I saw a doll that my B had been looking for and thought that would be a fun way for them to entertain themselves in the van while I drop off a meal for a fellow church member who just had a baby and then while we drive to the Hubs school to take him lunch. Instead of being thankful, my B started whining that what she really wanted was her Elmo doll (that's who was singing on the radio). I said no. My B struggles with accepting no, it's something we've been working on and talking about.


She's really crying now and I lose it. Right in the van.

Why can't you be grateful for the doll I brought you??? (said very, very loudly)
Why do you have to cry and whine when you don't get things exactly your way???
I don't like it when you act like this!!!

Here I am, trying to teach her to use words and stay calm, but yelling so loud that it's straining my voice.


We talked about it on the way home. I apologized for losing my temper. B promised that next time she would be thankful for the toy. We also talked about what was going to happen next.

Every soft toy she's got, except for one that she can keep out, is going into a blue barrel that I usually use to haul laundry. All of them.

Each day at lunch and each night at bedtime, she will be able to choose one to bring out of the barrel. All she's got to do is stay calm and use words when she's upset. I told her she doesn't have to be a perfect robot, and that she's bound to get upset, but we're not doing the crying/whining/plopping on the floor bit any more. I don't think it's too much to ask. She'll still get a warning. But she's going to have to earn back every soft animal she's got. And there are a few.
Poor little guys, exiled to the basement
This made her very sad, but she understands. It made me sad too. I figure we've gone the punitive route for long enough. It isn't working to decrease the behavior. While this is a punishment right at the start, as I'm hauling her animals out of her room, she will now get two rewards a day. I don't have to buy anything new, but it will seem like a gift for her every day. The best part is, that I hope it also teaches her to be grateful for what she has. Those stuffed animals are her favorite toys and what she plays with the most. Perhaps by the time she's earned them all back, her bad habits (tantrums, whining, crying) will be extinct. There are enough animals in there that this little project could last a couple of weeks, depending how many times she loses it. I'm picturing many teachable moments in the weeks to come.

We'll see how it goes.


Twinny said...

Good luck with the toys! I like to stir up Alaina's toy box every now and then so she can see what has been on the bottom for the last month. But I still have no idea what the heck I'm suppose to do with all these happy meal toys????

Jenifer said...

We did what you are doing too, except it was going to the garage and you had to earn it back before our next charity drop off. I bring stuff to charity all the time so the idea of permanently losing something was huge.

I have made a deliberate effort to not get my girls something every time we go out. We have some friends who can't say no and that behaviour just creeps into every day life. This little guy needs to be rewarded at every turn.

I really like The Berenstain Bears book "The Gimmes" and when I exaggerate the story and we role play a bit they laugh and I think they get it.

Keep up the hard work because the reward is worth it.

Omaha Mama said...

Happy Meal toys??? Trash.Can.

Anonymous said...

I guess living in a town with barely any stores does have some perks.

Sounds like a plan, OM. Hopefully her behaviour will improve AND she'll learn about the concept of parole. HAH!HAHA!

We love Happy Meal Toys! We buy them at the thrift store and garage sales (my kids don't like McDonald's food) and take a bucket full on car trips to distract the boys. I don't care if they get lost in transit, because they've only cost me a nickel or a dime. Not like those Thomas Toys which cost a small fortune.

How does B's future-kindergarten teacher discipline the students and what earns the children a time-out? It might be worth it to start mimicking those styles and rules (my son's teacher does a naughty chair in the corner for two minutes) so she's prepared for the school year. Some of my son's classmates had never had a time out and were freaked.

Adria Sha said...

I think you handled it well. I hope it does the trick.

I like the idea of rotating my children's toys. I have them in boxes, and the idea is to have some boxes down in the closet, and some up high on the shelf, and then rotate regularly. But what ends up happening is my kids pile the boxes up, climb up to the shelf, and pull everything down. So I need to go back to the drawing board.

Omaha Mama said...

I've actually emailed with B's teacher for the fall. I was questioning her about what type of classroom management she uses. She does a reward-type system each year, but it differs year to year. We didn't talk about time outs. B has had time outs since she could walk. Right now, if she earns herself "a break" we put on a timer and she goes to her room. It works fine to calm her down, but hasn't worked to prevent the behavior again. Yesterday, she earned freeing a toy from the barrel at bedtime and was so happy. Now that she's giving it a little effort, I think she's seeing that she can find other ways to show that she's unhappy, without plopping on the floor in a puddle of tears.

Omaha Mama said...

AD ~ The type of kids' meal toys you are referring to (I've seen them in your 'guess who I am post') are onese that we keep also. Figurines that are cute and small and cheap. They get played with outside or in the bath tub. I agree that they are fun for the purpose that they serve. Especially not caring if they get lost or broken. Lately though, stuff we've gotten in kids' meals has been craptastic. I don't even order kids' meals anymore, my kids just share an order of something else or split something with me.

Midwest Beach Girl said...

Genius. I remember when I would not clean my room. Mom would always threaten to come and take everything that was on the floor and get rid of it. I think it all made it into a bag once. What a motivator to have to earn your own things back.

Hope mom doesn't cringe as she reads this. I deserved every disciplinary action I received....

kristi said...

I think it is good that you are teaching her now while she is young. I see my 11 year old nephew fall on the floor in hysterics and it blows my mind! My 6 year old with Autism doesn't even do that.

Mimi said...

This is a really great idea, OM, and I think it's one I'll be using too. Keep it up!

Mama said...

Learning is a process so even if B doesn't get it now, hang in there because she will. [If there was a solution it would be in a kit for sale.]

Anonymous said...

It's not so bad. Remember in "Mommy Dearest" when Joan's kids got heaps of toys for Christmas and she donated them all to charity? At least you let her have wire hangers in her closet, right?
I. personally, buy my kids everything they want (within reason.) If we can't afford it we tell them maybe they can have it for Christmas or as a birthday gift. Surprisingly, they don't ask for toys very often and what they do ask for, they really enjoy. I think it's the fear of being told "no" that creates whining and tantrums.
I'm just glad I have healthy children who enjoy playing with toys. Also, if they get kidnapped or run over tomorrow, my last memory of them won't be of denying them something they wanted.

mum2brady said...

I think kids today really do have a lot of things they don't really need and have kind of lost the idea that maybe they need to "earn" things. I see so much more disrepect for things and for people in this next generation (especially when I'm helping at school). I just don't think kids appreciate stuff as much, because they have so much :)

Let me know if it works for getting rid of all whining and tantrums - cause I'd love a quick fix ;)

I'll be checking back. So glad that B was happy when she earned her toy back!

Keep us updated :)

Don Mills Diva said...

This touches on such a difficult issue. I don't want my son to be spoiled either but the fact is my husband and I ARE spoiled in many ways and how do we go about giving him a different lifestyle than the one we enjoy...?

Beck said...

Good luck!
I do think that material things have very little to do with whether or not a person ends up spoiled - I've known some just AWFUL people who came from lower middle-class households and some wonderful people who came from money. It's how you raise them, right?

Michelle said...

that looks like Kayla's collection! I've been wanting to get rid of the majority of them, just don't know where to bring them to.

I told myself I wasn't going to be like my step mom and yell at my kids, but I've found myself losing it too and yelling at Kayla and then just feeling awful afterwards, I'm glad I'm not the only one!

This sounds like a great way for B to learn the lessons you're trying to teach - good luck!