It has been a long time since I've posted but this story has a long development, so it wouldn't fit on the Facebook page.
When Toby was small, we would often roughhouse and wrestle and tickle. He would cry, "Stop! (hahaha!) Stop! (heeheehee)" and I would continue. Then suddenly, he would be crying and furious that I had not stopped. Where I crossed the line was always unpredictable. It ruined all the good fun and connecting. So we developed a safe word: Pickle (his choice). He must have been 4 or 5 years old (he's now 10). So for a long time, we would play and one person would say "Pickle" and whatever was going on would stop immediately. It built trust, and the best part was that as long as the person didn't say it, the other person could continue with reassurance that all was in good fun. The tormented person could yell "Stop stop stop!!" as much as they wanted, with both of us knowing it really meant "I love this!" A great system, a great solution.
Then came Hazel.
Perhaps it is too much for a small child (toddler to now 5), or maybe it's just her personality - but she would often ignore the Pickle. Toby would cry and rage at the injustice. He told her! So why didn't she stop?! He brought his problem to Family Meeting, perhaps a year or so ago. The children decided that if someone ignored a Pickle, they would lose a dessert. We parents did not like getting sucked into monitoring this. It presented new problems: they fought all day, both lost several desserts, then at dinner they would both just have some. They would both lose dessert, then decide that they cancelled each other out, and both have some. There was no reduction in conflict. They would fight over who lost a dessert or how many desserts. It was torture to have to hear all this.
They also morphed Pickle into, not a safe word, but a general term meaning "I don't like what you are doing so you have to stop." "Pickle humming!" "Pickle sitting next to me!" "Pickle listening to the radio!" I explained the origin and purpose of Pickle many times to no avail. Eventually they developed a declaration that they would try to remember to blurt out each morning: "Pickletouchingmewitheverythingandallmystuff!" which means, you can't touch me with a stick or blow on me (strategies that had been employed when someone said Pickle touching me), nor can you touch my things (toys, clothes, chair, etc). Awful. Ridiculous. We parents hated it. And still no reduction in conflict.
A few weeks ago, Toby brought to Family Meeting the problem: when you say stop and the person doesn't stop. Here were the proposed solutions:
H - the person stops
T- keep a tally on a Pickle chart for lost desserts
M - no computer for a week for the people involved in the conflict
D - all 4 family members have to go into their own rooms
Toby chose his own solution of trying a Pickle Chart. At the following meeting, we all decided that the Pickle Chart was not working. It was on a white board and people were adding tally marks on the sly, or erasing their own marks. Toby suggested that the punishment was not severe enough to act as a deterrent. I offered the idea that maybe rather than a harsher punishment, we try rewarding positive behavior instead. The kids came up with this plan:
- if you say stop and the person stops, put 2 pompoms in the jar
-when the pompom jar is filled, we have some sort of Family Fun outing (TBD)
-if Stop is respected for a whole week, each kid gets an extra dollar allowance
Dan and I looked at each other and agreed that resolution to this long-standing problem was worth way more than $2 to us, and agreed to try it. Over the course of this last week, things have been very different. I have heard someone saying "Stop!" two or three times, but is has always de-escalated quickly, no tears, no screaming. Once I heard Toby say, "Do you want to lose your dollar?" I have not heard Pickletouchingmewitheverythingandallmystuff even once, which is worth $2 to me all by itself. Interestingly, not one pompom was put in the jar all week. It has been, in a nutshell, BLISSFUL by comparison.
At Family Meeting today, there got to be some discussion about the solution. Toby suggested that only the offender in an incident would lose their dollar. I explained that that was counter-productive, the point was for them to work together to resolve conflict, not to undermine each other into losing their bonus. He accepted that. Both children agreed that the original problem of someone not respecting a Stop seemed to be basically solved. I suggested that if the solution seems to be working, we shouldn't mess with it. They both joyously received their extra dollars. And the parents incredulously and gratefully forked them over.
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