When Stephen was our only child, I’d rate my parenting skills A-. Which was a good thing, because he was a very difficult toddler. He needed to know EXACTLY where the line was. Once the line was clearly drawn, he stood on it. Then we could mostly coast, except for occasionally, when he put a toe over the line to make sure it hadn’t moved back.
Shortly thereafter, we had another baby, which complicated life and we slid down to B+ parenting. Which was fine at the time.
THEN we had two babies, and my skills slipped to a solid B (aka a lot of fussing, and not a lot of consequencing). But when you are managing 4 boys 8 and under, and one of them is named
Adrian…I mean, I won’t mention any names, a B doesn’t cut it. You need A+, college ready parenting skills.
So I took a one day Love and Logic class to brush up on my techniques. One child in particular has given me many occasions to use them.
We have gotten strict about doing chores. At its inception, Adrian fought it tooth and nail. When asked to pick up a few toys, he wailed tragically, threw things, rolled piteously on the floor, and moaned, tongue hanging out, as if we had asked him to take a bath in boiling oil.
We persevered, and after many tantrums, arguments, and spankings, he mostly complied. But Adrian is a sneaky stubborn boy, and when overt refusals didn’t work, he switched to more discreet tactics. His favorites are “deaf boy,” in which he can’t hear a thing I say, and the classically reliable “helpless baby” technique in which he couldn’t possibly clean his room by himself because he’s “too little” and “doesn’t know how.”
In more sinister moods, he sabotages things in the house. He ripped up his books when I put him to bed early once, and now he rips up or scribbles on things that are important to me.
After studying page 6 of my Love and Logic manual, I was ready for chore time.
Saturday: Day 1
The boys had a friend over, which actually helped the situation as he loves doing chores (!?). I asked them to clean their bathroom, their room, pick up the toys, and vacuum the basement. Their friend, A, asked excitedly, “Can I vacuum?” And enthusiastically ran it all over the basement. When that was done, he asked, “Can I vacuum the upstairs, too?” I graciously agreed. Even Adrian got in on the excitement, and the two happily got the upstairs. As A observed, “Gosh, I’d better do the stairs, too!” Adrian’s enthusiasm waned.
“Adrian, just finish cleaning your room and you’ll be all done! You’re doing so good!” Adrian glared at me and suddenly went deaf.
After the house was clean, the boys went downstairs to watch a movie. Adrian plopped happily on the couch. I looked at him. “Oh, bummer, Adrian. I only let people who finish their chores have screen time.”
When I returned 10 minutes later, Adrian was still glued to the screen.
“Guys,” I said. “I think we should do something REALLY fun while A is here. What should we do?”
“Go get ice cream!” volunteered Adrian.
“Great idea! Let’s do it!” I said. Then my face fell. “Uh-oh. But Adrian, I only take people out for treats when they finish their chores. And I only take good listeners. Sorry. Maybe you can come next time.”
Stephen, A, and I climbed in to the van, while a crying Adrian watched us go. I admit, I spent most of the trip feeling guilty. But the L&L instructor had told me, “remember, the bigger and badder it is, the less likely you’ll have to do it again.” When we got home, Adrian had finished cleaning his room with no prompting or help from Eric. He was still very sad about getting left behind. But I hugged him, made popcorn, and we all happily finished the movie. (I discovered later that he scribbled all over a Christmas letter someone sent me….)
Sunday: Day 2
Adrian brought his loud trucks upstairs.
“Please don’t play with those upstairs,” I said. “They’re too loud. Can you take them back downstairs, please?”
Adrian smiled, hid the trucks behind his back, and went deaf. 5 minutes later, I heard the trucks in the living room.
“Uh-oh!” I said. “Those aren’t allowed up here!” I grabbed them and locked them away, Adrian screaming all the while. The screaming stopped and I heard the scratch of the stool on the floor. I knew exactly what he was going for:
I had moved it higher on my bulletin board earlier in the week, after rescuing it from Adrian’s wrath.
“Are you getting the stool so you can take my picture and rip it up?”
He nodded, his brows furrowed in anger. “You can’t have it anymore!” He yelled. “You’re making me mad!”
“Let me help you,” I said, taking it down and handing it to him. “Have fun. Please throw the pieces away when you’re done.” I walked away. When I returned, I was pleasantly surprised to see the picture had been returned to its position. It is the first object known to have survived Adrian-ageddon.
“I want my trucks,” he said sadly.
“Aw,” I said. “Well, my energy is really drained now. What do you think you could do to get it back?”
“I don’t know!” He yelled, stomping.
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something,” I replied, busying myself with Reid and Will.
A little later, Adrian reappeared with a coin. “Here you go,” he said. “Now get my trucks.”
“That’s a start!” I said. “My energy is still low though.”
He stomped and fussed.
But then he got out a piece of paper. And drew 2 little people. He stomped to me and held it out. “There you go!” He yelled.
“That’s nice!” I said. “That does help my energy. But I would like more colors.”
He begrudgingly added some grass and the sun. “How about a flower?” I asked.
“Oh yeah!” He said, beginning to get into it. “I’ll draw you a pink flower! Close your eyes! Don’t look! You’re going to like it!”
And what do you know, I did like it. And it was just enough energy to get trucks back.
Now I won’t tell you what happened after this, getting ready to go to church, or during Sunday school drop off, or about the tantrums the twins threw while all this was going on. (remember A+ parenting required??) Because all that was bad. And Adrian is not taking well to “deaf boy” losing its effectiveness.
But it’s a start, and I’ll keep experimenting, and hopefully I can bring my parenting grades up.