things (part 3)

When he's not biting me (which, to be fair, is like 98% of the time. I guess the 2% just seems like a lot more because, oh, I don't know, IT HURTS.), Aaron is transforming into a pretty neat kid. I'm stunned, STUNNED on a minute by minute basis by how much stuff this kid knows and sees and retains and applies. I try to keep up, but somehow I managed to birth a gear head and damned if that stuff doesn't bore me to tears. Stuff works because it works, in my book, but no, we need to know more and why and why not this instead and where does that connect to and what if it connected here too? Between Google, my little brother, and YouTube, I'm learning more about the internal combustion engine than I ever cared to know, yet somehow I'm still failing to keep up with the rapid fire of questions shot at me from the backseat on the way to go get groceries.

We got him an Erector set (best purchase EVER) and he's put together all manner of moving/rolling/driving creations, talking to himself about drive-trains and crankshafts and motors and axles all the while. This morning he informed me that the reason his latest "car" wouldn't climb up the slope of our leather ottoman was because "I think it's maybe an issue with the traction or torque or stuff like that. Because it's too slippery up here." I don't know how much of this is just repeating back the words we've encountered on the diagrams/videos and how much of this is actual mastery of the language of nerds mechanical engineering, but it scares me more than a little bit. I'm thankful on a daily basis that we don't have the proverbial chemistry set in the basement.

We're trying to step up his levels of responsibility to keep up with his growing awareness of the world around him. Or, said another way, to keep him busy, we're giving him chores. He doesn't like being told what to do (duh),though, so we were butting heads on an almost hourly basis because I don't like having my authority challenged/ignored. We've both got issues. I finally assigned a significant portion of my brain to the task of coming up with ways to get him to do what I want him to do without telling him what needs to be done.

Bedtime was the worst.

Naggingpleadingbeggingthreateningcryingwhiningscreaming to get out of the bathtub, brush teeth, put on pj's and GET INTO BED was just not working as well as you might think. In a rare flash of brilliance (read: 2 neurons firing simultaneously) I came up with the idea of introducing him to the concept of time being finite and guess what? the natural consequences of wasting time now is not having it later. Or, in boy-ese, if you [choose to throw water out of the bathtub], you will need to [take the time to clean it up] which means you will only have time for [2 bedtime stories instead of 3]. Insert any variety of [actions] and [consequences] and all the sudden it's not mean ole mommy making arbitrarily mean decisions because she hates little precious.

Except that it was still mean ole mommy glancing sternly at her watch and issuing "Well, I guess you don't want 3 stories tonight" warnings ad infinitum , so really in the end it wasn't at all about natural consequences, but a game of "how many chances can I get Mommy to give me by whining and wheedling?". So, yeah. Not so effective.

Then it hit me that maybe he needed to SEE it. He needed to literally see that time was not waiting around for him to finish his hop-on-one-leg-athon.

And then, it really hit me. As in "fell off the shelf while I was cleaning my closet and hit me on the shoulder". I'm not sure if I saw stars or if it was those two renegade neurons flashing again, but three overhead projector markers, some poorly drawn pictures, and 15 minutes later and viola! The bedtime clock was born:

So now our evenings are carefully segmented off and it is the clock, not Mommy, controlling our Storytime destiny.

Since that picture was taken, we've further divided the time between Bath and Story1 time to include a "chore card" segment. In a nutshell: I took pictures of 5 tasks that Aaron (should) completes on a regular basis, glued the pictures to index cards, and then made "banks" out of clear plastic cups (see picture). We go through the cards each night at chore card time, talk about whether or not he earned his nickle for said chore and then pop the earned nickles into the appropriate cup bank. First nickle is "saved", second nickle is "shared", and he gets to choose whether to save, share, or spend whatever remains.

That, too, is working very well, though we're at a wiggly point where we're trying to decide whether or not the "Good Attitude" card should stay in there. Are we, as we initially hoped, encouraging him to go about his day thoughtfully, considering the consequences (positive and negative) of his behavior on himself and others? Or are we teaching him that he doesn't have to do anything unless there is a reward in it for himself? I go back and forth. Input?



Lora said...

that clock is brilliant!

The Curmudgeon said...

We never did pay kids for doing things to help around the house.

And not just because I'm cheap, either.

Well... not just because.

The idea was that everyone under the roof must contribute, that this is expected and not in any way extra. Thus, no payment. We never paid an allowance; we did agree to get things the kids wanted (a) when we thought it appropriate and (b) when we could.

I'd love to tell you that it worked... that our kids grew up responsible and pitching in whenever and wherever necessary... but that would be a total lie.

On the other hand, we had a party for Older Daughter and her new husband at our Parish Center a few weeks back. At the end, all of us started pitching in to clean up and put things away. All, that is, except Oldest Son's fiance, who didn't seem to get that we rather expected her, as a pending member of the family, to pitch in as well. All of my kids noticed this and all agreed that this was not so good. (Except, possibly, for Oldest Son, whose divided loyalties necessarily - and properly - precluded his venturing any opinion on the subject.)

So maybe we didn't fail entirely.

You are on the right track with actions having immediate and predictable consequences. It's tough to be consistent and it's tough to stand firm, but it pays off in the end.

susan said...

Lora - Thanks! Every now and then even a blind squirrel finds a nut... :)

Curmy - Your story sums up my struggle beautifully. I grew up in the no-allowance-we-work-together-because-that's-what-families-do tradition, and as a result, I like to think I'm pretty quick to pitch in and lend a hand when/where it's needed. I'm also HORRIBLE when it comes to any sort of money management. Josh lies on the other side of the coin -- perhaps not the quickest to do more than his part (don't get me wrong, he DOES his part and frequently does more, often more behind the scenes than he gets credit for), but it is his understanding of money management that has made it possible for us to never have carried debt beyond what we might owe on our vehicle(s)/home. So I see value in both, I just can't figure out how to combine what seems like two opposite views to reach the best possible combination.