Thursday, January 28, 2010
Today I hosted a playdate. I had a three-year-old over for my younger son and a six-year-old over for my older son. They were having a great time, but if you put 4 boys together, there are bound to be small fights or incidents where an adult must step in and help resolve.
My older son, Noah, decided that he wanted to go outside to ride scooters, but the other 3 boys were happily playing in the backyard. I said, "We'll go outside in a bit, let everyone play first."
Being six and independent, Noah went outside, gathered the other kids up and came back in with all of them, ready to go ride scooters.
I said, "Noah, I told you after everyone was done playing in the back. Go play for a bit." I had a girlfriend sitting across from me, and I wanted to continue our conversation while the kids played.
Noah began to whine. He walked toward me, pulled on my shirt. Debated with me on why they wanted to go ride now.
When this used to happen, before I know what I know today, I used to get angry, really annoyed and upset. I would raise my voice, even shove his grip off of me. But now I have a parent-weapon. One that I use when I am about to lose it, or when one of my boys is getting out of control.
I looked at Noah, directly in his eyes and said, "I'm going to take a toy out of your room if you don't listen." At that, he made a frowning face, and went back outside.
My girlfriend sitting across from me seemed impressed. "How do you remain so calm?" she asked.
This question gave me the idea for this blog. I didn't used to be so calm. One time I screamed at them so loudly that I think I hurt something in my head. At that moment I realized, either I was going to live my life yelling at my kids, losing my voice and eventually end up on crazy pills, or I had to come up with something that worked, something that I could say in a calm voice that took the wind out of their sails immediately with no talk back.
Here's what I did:
About a year ago, Noah would not go up to his room for a time out. I couldn't carry a kicking, screaming 5 year old up a flight of stairs, and I was about to loose it. I was boiling. So I went to his room, took a favorite toy (and I mean favorite - it must be - no matter what the $$ cost or who it was a gift from). I brought the toy downstairs.
Noah stopped crying and looked at me curiously.
I opened the garbage can and in front of him, threw the loved toy away.
He screamed, ran to the trash and tried to retrieve it, but I said, "If you take that toy out, I will go upstairs, get another one and throw them both out. And I will keep doing it until you have no more toys in your room". Then I stared him down.
After crying and saying goodbye to his favorite toy, he put it back in the trash and closed the lid.
I felt awful. He was so sad. But, the next time he deserved a time out, he went to his room. All I had to say was, "If I get to your room before you do, I'm taking a toy." You've never seen a 5 year-old run so fast to his time out!
I have used this toy-to-trash rule for over a year now and it works like no other punishment I have ever tried. We have thrown out some wonderful toys, some expensive toys and some family gifts, but all worth it to me. I don't lose my temper. I don't lose my mind.
My house is more calm. My children pay attention when I am parenting them. Fights are ended quickly between the two of them when I warn that I am heading to their rooms. And because I have thrown out the toys, not just taken them for a few hours or days, they listen. Less toys have been trashed too, now that the threat ends the drama. There's less yelling from me, less anger in the house and less irritation for all of us.
So parents - if you find yourself angry with your kids, yelling, irritated, and feeling like you've lost the control, throw out the toy! It only takes a few good toys tossed to end the drama.