It's no secret that we've sought out therapy as a family because our home life is a goddamn shit show. I'm a yeller. I hate that I am, but I am. I blow up easily and my kids are definitely monkey see, monkey do. Therapy is helping a lot to help keep us all in check. It's ok to have strong emotions but it's the outlet that you need to get a handle on. It's also very important for kids to learn how to label their emotions, which is easier said than done, especially for my stubborn girl child.
We've tried a bunch of different things like breathing, counting, yoga, 123 Magic, etc. What I'm learning is that there's no one thing that's the magic fix. You need to take a little bit from here and there to find what works for your family. And it takes FOREVER to figure this out. Often, once you do figure something that works, it'll only work for a couple weeks and you're back to square one. Parenting is hard, yo.
My two kids have different motivations. Ava, who's seven, is motived to get stuff but once she has it she doesn't care about it, which makes for pointless spending of the monies I don't have. I could burn all of her belongings in the backyard and she wouldn't give two shits. I'm being serious. Finding what motivates her is difficult. My four-year-old, EZ, is easily motivated by stuff. Taking a toy away from him is like taking a sword to his heart.
So. It's a balancing act, but I wanted to share what has been working over the last month for our family. I'm not saying it's a perfect fix, but it does help defuse tense situations in our house.
I don't know about you but when my kid is being a shithead and I need to discipline, it's very hard for me to come up with an appropriate consequence in that very moment. Like they say you should. Usually, it causes more problems because it only pisses the kid off more and makes things worse. You might say, "So what?! They asked for it and need to have a consequence!" True but it usually ends up hurting more than just the child who needs to be disciplined. And I'm sure you know things aren't that simple otherwise all children would never throw tantrums and always be perfect angels. Relationships and people are far too complicated to slap One Size Fits All kind of label. Same goes for disciplining children.
With the help of our therapist, we started consequence jars. You can find something similar on Pinterest. We decided to not call it a consequence jar because not everything in there is something necessarily harsh. We have a five minute time out, no sweets for the rest of the day, do 25 jumping jacks, two-minute bear hug with mom or dad, etc. (See below for the full list.) It took us a while to come up with a solid list. Something that we feel works for both of our kids and our family. Often, it's not about hard discipline but redirecting a bad attitude.
chillax. Printed in green rather than red because I don't want it be associated with something bad. When, one of the kids is being a turd, for whatever reason, they randomly pull from the jar. If they refuse to do it, I do it for them. They have to do whatever that strip of paper says.
Last week, EZ was being mega whiney about who knows what and just wouldn't quit so we pulled from the jar, at this point I was using it as a redirect because OMG STAHP! He pulled 25 jumping jacks. He was whining *surprise* that he couldn't do them and I said, "Well, I'll move your arms and you do the legs." This activity helped us go from a very tense, irritable situation to belly laughs because MY GOD, my kid is so uncoordinated. I needed the redirect as much as he did. I find it hard to get out of an irritable mood. When I'm annoyed or pissy, I can't easily shake it. I tried to put a bunch of things in the jar that will help ME chill the fuck out too.
I should note, according to our therapist, that our list doesn't include anything that has interactions between siblings like bearhug your sibling for two minutes, you know, the same sibling you just sucker punched two seconds ago. Separate them. They need to be apart long enough so that when they do interact again they won't feel resentment. My kids go at it like cats and dogs, FORCING them to love each other when they just want to tear out their sibling's throat does them no good.
To balance things out, we also have a goodie. jar. EZ calls it the blue jar because goodie. is printed in blue and he can't read. We have simple things like watching one show of your choice with mom or dad, go on a long walk with daddy, ice cream for desert, etc. I need to come up with more none money type things, though. This is working for making the kids stay in their rooms at night. It helps promote good behavior and they really want to pull from that jar since they have NO idea what's in there. It's always a surprise.
Put time limits on your ideas. For example if the reward says, watch a show with mom or dad. Make it say, watch ONE SHOW that's 30 minutes. Or if it's something that's an outdoor activity, say if weather permits. If not, pull another slip of paper. It helps give the kids and idea that it's not an endless consquence or reward. I don't have a solution for things that happen in public or the car but baby steps, ya'll!
Below are links to both of our lists. I'm working on adding more ideas for the goodie. jar. If you have ideas throw them my way! I'd love to hear them. Feel free to print these lists for yourself. I hope my list will at least give you ideas for your list. Create your own lists! HOW MANY TIMES CAN I SAY LISTS?!
Click to download
chillax. goodie. jar labels