Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Pickle Saga

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.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Do Nothing, Say Nothing December 2012

We learned:
1. Both kids went to school every day.
2. Hazel got herself all ready for school in the morning with only wake-up, the ten-minute timer, and being told when it is time to go outside.
3. Both kids stayed reasonable in terms of dessert amounts.
4. Both kids got to sleep at a reasonable time on school nights.
5. Toby cleared his dishes without being asked, Hazel did sometimes.
6. Hazel remembered to brush her teeth every morning.
7. Screentime was more than usual but not outrageous.
8. Hazel ate some breakfast every day.
9. Hazel wore new clothes almost every day.
10. Hazel put on a pull-up before bed almost every night.
11. Toby got up for school and out to the bus on time every day on his own.
12. Both kids made and remembered their lunch every day.
13. Not one poop was discovered left sitting in the toilet!
(areas to work on)
1. Without consequences or reminders, Toby brushed his teeth 3 times this week (twice with reminders).
2. Toby ate breakfast 2 times this week.
3. Hazel bathed once without soap, Toby did not bathe.
4. Toby never had a bedtime snack.
5. Toby never changed his clothes.
6. Hazel did not do any homework.
7. There were toys, clothes, and used tissues all over the floor in almost every room.

Things to consider:
  1. dessert rules
  2. screentime rules
  3. bedtime
  4. lunch reminders
Parental involvement needed (non-negotiable at this time):
  1. Toby's teeth (braces, history of decay requiring prescription-strength toothpaste)
  2. Toby's eating breakfast and bedtime snack (prescribed by endocrinologist)
  3. Hazel's homework
Areas to work on together:
  1. Toby's clothes
  2. bathing
  3. mess
December Trial Period

For the rest of 2012, we will try out the following agreements and decide on New Year's Day if they are working or need modification.

Privilege                                       Responsibilities

1. no screentime rules other         -homework and reading get done
than screentime ends at 8 p.m.     -eat dinner and bedtime snack (T)
                                                      -reasonable bedtime
                                                      -have some social interaction with
                                                      -brush teeth before bed

2. no dessert rules                         -eat healthy meals/foods
                                                      -eat dessert after healthy foods
                                                      -no candy in the morning

3. no bedtime rules other than      -get enough sleep to wake up on time
after 8:30 is grown-up quiet time       and not be cranky
(don't ask for anything)

New agreements for problem areas (suggested by children):

1. bathing – Toby plans to bathe on Sundays, shower on Tuesdays when he gets home from school, Hazel plans to bathe Tues, Thurs, Saturday
Parents remind

2. Toby's clothes – he will change into all new clothes before bed
- he will make a dry erase board list each evening of things to do
3. mess – make mess in your own room – Dad will put the door back on Hazel's room
- the only toys in the family room will be recent gifts
- one activity out at a time in family room
- Mom will not go into children's rooms (so I don't have to see the mess - this means H puts her own laundry away and she can't have a bedtime snuggle in her own bed)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today is Thursday. This morning I told Toby I needed to violate DNSN, since he hadn't brushed his teeth since Monday evening. He said, "Really?" I didn't have to say anything else. Our previous arrangement had been that if he missed 3 times in 7 days (3 out of 14 times expected), then he would have to brush at least 11 out of 14 times for two weeks in a row to earn back dessert. I guess without that looming over him, he has not been so vigilant. And I have not been reminding him. Today both kids had their annual physical appointments. All went beautifully until flu shots at the end, even the fingerstick iron check went easily for both. However, Hazel started crying in anticipation before the nurse even came into the room. Toby wanted me to get her out of there so he could get his shot in peace - which also meant alone, for the first time. He went through with it with just a little hesitation, got teary but faced everything with a lot of courage. Hazel HOWLED, and had resurgences of crying with various body pains (arms, hands, mouth, eyes) intermittently over the next two hours. I offered her several remedies and lots of hugs, but watching TV seemed to be the only thing that distracted her from her complaints. All that crying just exhausts me. I am learning to trust Hazel about getting herself ready in the morning, although she does everything last minute which makes me super anxious. She has made her lunch in the morning just a few minutes before needing to leave, each day this week. I am hoping that all this doing-for-herself continues after DNSN ends.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Toby has not brushed his teeth since Monday evening. He did get them cleaned at the dentist yesterday though! He has also not eaten any breakfast since we started DNSN - which would normally not be much of a big deal, but he is under doctor's orders to eat breakfast every day as well as a bedtime snack for being underweight/slow-growing, and he knows this very well. He seems to really need parental pushing to eat in the morning, he says he doesn't ever really feel hungry. Since it is a medical concern, we have decided that he can not determine this issue himself. We will see at the end of the week how much weight he has lost. This morning, Hazel started saying, "I don't want to go to school..." I was already prepared for her to miss the bus, since she never brought her backpack in from the car yesterday and therefore did not make any lunch. When it was time for the bus, Toby noticed the clock and jumped up and left. Hazel asked if I could drive her since she hadn't brushed her teeth yet (nor had any underwear on under her dress, nor had made lunch). I said I could if it was before I had to leave for my class (in an hour and a half). I was gearing myself up for if she decided not to go - but after her brother left, she seemed to get on the ball and did all her stuff. She was only about 15 minutes late. Her toys are spreading throughout the house more and more. She took out her ballet shoes to practice her dance routine, and to get them she had to pull her leotard and tights out of the bag as well. They have been on the floor under the diningroom table for 2 days. She needs to wear them for her recital so I hope they don't get too visibly stained from anything that drops down there. I lured Hazel into the bath tonight by getting in and inviting her to join me. She only allowed soap on her feet for a foot massage though, nowhere else. Toby is not only happy to avoid a bath, he has been wearing the same clothes nonstop for the past 3 days. I am also noticing how much of a conscious effort I have to make to NOT clean up after everyone. I usually just scoop things up as I move throughout the house in my own acitvities. I have had to put things back a couple of times, after deciding I shouldn't be cleaning it up for someone else. So we're about half-way through our week and the house is becoming hard for me to bear - I am running out of places to hide for serenity, places that are not a disaster. I am starting to brainstorm creative group cleanup strategies for Saturday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pros: dinner dishes cleared, more or less appropriate amount of dessert consumed, both kids on time for the bus two days in a row, remembered to make and bring healthy lunches - and backpacks, one child with teeth brushed both mornings, both children dressed appropriately for the weather (snow), both children to sleep before 10 p.m. both nights with teeth brushed, daughter wore a pull-up both nights, homework done! Cons: one child with teeth not brushed this morning, chocolate milk left on table for 24 hours, toys strewn across the floor in family room/kitchen/hallway/daughter's room/our room, a few extra hours of video games, no contributions done One big difference this time around seems to be very little food mess. Son is much better at making his lunch, daughter only packs easy things that don't require preparation (yogurt, fruit cup, etc), and dinner dishes into dishwasher is my contribution this month, so they aren't piling up. Things are going well, they are doing a really good job of being self-sufficient about school. The big issue seems to be toys all over this time, almost all daughter.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do Nothing, Say Nothing, 2012

Day 1: they each ate a very healthy dinner, cleared their dishes, and ate only a little more dessert than usual. Extensive Wii usage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quick example

A snippet of daily life, PonT in action:
My kids love the haircut place with the video games and prizes, but they get crappy haircuts. I have been asking them to go to my hair stylist (who is also cheaper), and offering that they get to use my phone to play games and get some prize afterwards, but they want the kids' place. I was tormented by this, and started to think to myself, "I am the parent. I can just take them where I want to take them. Where else in my life am I willing to pay more for something of lower quality??" Then... I thought for a minute, how would PonT address this situation? And it came to me in a flash of brilliance. I asked the kids if their preference for the kids' place was worth enough to them to pay the difference. And it wasn't, so they willingly came to my hair salon and got gorgeous cuts - and had fun since they were the center of attention. No conflict or power struggle, no overruling their desires! Thank you!