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Letters of Apology

I don’t usually write two posts in one day, let alone in one week sometimes, but this is post-worthy.

sadfaceZack came home from Kindergarten with another yellow card today. It’s his second one this year (as in 2013, calendar year, not school year). I could tell he was upset. I was upset. I was disappointed. I was frustrated.

Zack is young. He’s the youngest one (literally) in his class. The one thing we are always watching out for is how easily influenced he is. Every morning when we get to school, before we get out of the car, we have a conversation about making good choices. Just because someone makes a bad choice doesn’t mean you have to do the same. “You are your own person and can make your own good choices.” I tell him over and over and over. I feel like he gets it – he understands, at least when we are discussing it. BUT, he is constantly getting stuck following other kids’ bad choices, which sometimes lands Zack in trouble.

I know Zack is a smart boy. I know he understands the difference between right and wrong. I know he understands rewards… today he learned a big lesson about consequences.

We get home from school (and from picking Brayden up from school too) and before we even get in the house, “Can I play, Mom?” “No. There is no playing today.” I get Brayden settled with a snack and a movie and go digging in my office for a small pad of lined paper. I tell Zack to sit at the counter (as he does most days after school to have his snack and do his homework), but this time is a little different. I write out a little note that he must copy: Dear Mrs. B, Sorry for throwing food at lunch today. I will make better choices. -Zackery (Yes, you read that right, my sweet little boy, with whom I snuggled with most of the morning yesterday, took part in a lunch room game of catch-the-broccoli).

I made Zack sit quietly and write a letter of apology to his teacher, and all five of the other kids in his class who took part. I made him sit there until all six letters of apology were done. By the time he finished it was already dinner time, so from the kitchen counter to the table he went. He moped as he ate, and I attempted to talk to him more about the earlier incident. He didn’t remember everything, but he said he knew that what he did was wrong. “What was going through your head when you were throwing food?” I asked him. He didn’t know, other than telling me “Well *kid’s name here* started it first!”

I made him sit at the table while Brayden and I finished our dinner. He wasn’t happy about that. He wanted to play. There is no playing today. I made him sit at the table with nothing to do for another half hour after dinner was over. Brayden was playing, but not Zack. Zack was learning about consequences.

I don’t know if I was right to make him sit at the table for so long or not, but what I do know is that I truly hope he understands now what it means to NOT follow bad choices. I also don’t know if his teacher will give out the letters of apology to the other five kids (the other five kids who also played catch-the-broccoli), but for me it’s more about Zack writing those notes and understanding why.

Once bedtime came and both boys had their jammies on it was a pretty normal evening – if ever there is one. We sat on the couch and read books. Zack even read two books out loud to us (I am really proud at how well he is doing with his reading, and I made sure to tell him that as I tucked him in). Zack and Brayden are both comfy-cozy in their beds. Let’s hope for different – better – choices tomorrow.

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The Sleeping Ninja

Dinner’s over, Will and I are cleaning up (well, I’m cleaning up and he’s monitoring and playing with the boys – so that dinner CAN get cleaned up), and for about the fifth time in a span of about six minutes, Zackery and Brayden are at it again. Seriously? We literally JUST had this conversation. “Leave your brother alone!” And that goes both ways – it’s no one’s fault, it’s both of them equally.

Will takes Brayden down the hall to his room for a timeout, and I tell Zack to go sit in the corner for his timeout. They giggle. This timeout thing is not working tonight. It’s not doing the trick. They think it’s a game and don’t seem to care. Will and I, however, are not so amused. In an effort to change-up the obviously not working discipline strategy, I tell Zack to try some yoga.

“You need to calm down,” I said to him. “Let’s try some yoga.”

He smiles. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well what’s your favorite pose?” I ask him.

He tells me, but I’ve never heard of it, and honestly I can’t remember what he said, although it was quite unique (it was a few nights ago, so those memories are loooong gone). He struggles to show me, and then tells me “It’s hard. I can’t do it.”

“Pick a different pose. Do tree pose.”

“I don’t want to do tree pose. I want to do [insert name of yoga pose here].” And he tries again, but struggles. “I can’t do it.”

We go back and forth like this a few times. Me, suggesting other, simpler poses I know he can do, and he, remaining stubborn (hmmm, where does he get that I wonder?) and wanting to do his pose. By this time Brayden has wandered back out of his room and is curious yet timid about the new yoga discipline tactic. As he hears Zack and I going back and forth, he decides to come over and show me his tree pose – and a cute one it is, chubby little legs and all.

I use Brayden as the example for Zack, saying “Look at your brother! Brayden’s doing tree pose. Can you do that with him?”

“No.”

Finally, and out of nowhere – and I mean I was shocked – Will looks at Zack and says, “Can you do the Sleeping Ninja?”

“What?!”

“Yes, the Sleeping Ninja!”

Okay by now I am laughing because here is this man who has maybe done yoga once in his life – ever – and now he’s teaching our son this crazy new (I’ve figured out made-up) yoga pose.

“How do I do it?” asks Zack.

“Lay down on your back, feet straight out and put your hands on your belly. Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. Feel your hands move up and down with each breath.”

“Then what do I do?”

“That’s it. The Sleeping Ninja.”

How cool is that?! It took Zack a couple of seconds to get settled down and actually breathe slow enough that he could see and feel his hands moving up and down, but it worked. Thank you, Will! So, the next time the boys are getting a little bit too out of control, I’m going to whip out the Sleeping Ninja move – watch out! Maybe I’ll try it sometime too. 🙂

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Wanna Go For A Third?

Yes, I did it. I did it twice, in fact. And both times it felt really good. I was hot on fire and ready for a third time.

No, it’s not what you think. Although, that does sound like a little bit of fun… *wink wink* Wait? Are we on the same page here? Um, oops, sorry. Ha ha! My wandering mind…

So yes, I did it. It wasn’t a marathon, I didn’t clean the house from top to bottom, I didn’t make a most scrumptuous pot roast feast. I didn’t rake the leaves or lose those last ten pounds (well, maybe it’s more like 12-15 after a summer of wine and ice cream) of baby weight – and yes, my babies are still at home, so I still consider it baby weight. 🙂

What DID I do? I’ll tell you. I put soap in Brayden’s mouth. And yes, I did it twice. He did not like it one bit. It was just a tiny little bit of dish washing soap (so I know it won’t hurt him) – the clear, unscented kind (so I know he’s not going to burp yellow, lemon-scented bubbles).

It was dinner time, and for the last time he was rambling off (and enjoying it quite too much) his “bad” words. He wasn’t swearing (thankfully my husband and I have managed to refrain from any of those you know, adult languages around the boys, and in fact we have both lowered our count of verbalizing our emotions with such graphic words, although I must admit I was always more at fault than he was). Needless to say, Brayden was not understanding that he was not supposed to say the words he was saying, so after a couple weeks of threatening to put soap in his mouth to wash away the dirty words, I finally gathered my Mommy powers and did it. Right at the dinner table, right in front of Zack – who was stunned and didn’t think I was actually going to do it, let alone a second time. And I was ready for a third.

I’m not particualrly proud of this, but I will give myself a pat on the back for following through on what my husband and I both kept saying would happen. It didn’t stop him entirely, he did spout off a few more bad words again later, but it was during bath so I just yanked him out of the tub and called that that.

My husband and I both had siblings that had soap put into their mouths. I remember the incident with my sister well. It was a pure white bar of ivory soap. I was grateful it wasn’t me (even though at the time I had not much clue as to what it means to be truly grateful). So I guess a little of what happened tonight was “like Mother, like Daughter.” And a little of it was just pure, clean discipline – literally.

So beware little Brayden, don’t test me, or I will bring out my soap-wielding hands again…

love, Mommy.

Extreme Parenting

I like sports. I like kids. I love my kids. But sometimes, I find myself being extreme in how I parent and handle the situation. Most times I know better, I just lose control, and usually that ends up in me screaming at them, shoving them both into timeouts and not getting anything accomplished that I plan to. I get mad at myself every time I do it, but sometimes I just need that release (and to show them that they can’t just get away with everything). I will admit, the screaming has become less of a norm, especially since we started the “Star Jar.”

What? The Star Jar, you ask? Yes! It’s a reward system where the boys get a star when they do something nice or good that they are not already supposed to be doing. For example, if Brayden falls and Zack goes over to help him up (all on his own), Zack would earn a star. If Brayden went and got Zack’s water bottle for him, without Zack having to ask, Brayden would earn a star. If Zack brings his plate to the counter after dinner, well, that’s something he’s already supposed to be doing, so no star for that. You never take stars away, they only earn them. Once they’ve earned enough stars, they can turn them in for something special. For us, that’s like watching a movie or getting a toy back that was previously confiscated. I started it a few weeks ago (thanks to my best friend who told me about it, and after I had called her in desparation from screaming at my kids all day long). It took a while for us to get into the routine of it, and I’ll admit sometimes I am not as strict about turning in stars as I should be, but when we follow the system, it seems to have a positive effect (on all of us).

Want to know what the Star Jars look like and how we did it? (I’ll post a picture of them in the comments when I get home) I went to Michael’s and found two square, plastic jars with lids that are easy for the boys to take off and put on themselves (Brayden still needs a little help to get it back on straight – but Zack likes to help him, so that’s good reinforcement of doing something nice). I then found a pack of wooden stars, in various sizes. We decorated the jars with stickers, adding each of their names to each of their jars. Zack’s has animals all over it and Brayden’s has motorcycles and vehicles. Because we have three different size stars, each size is worth different points. Small is 1 point, medium is 3 points, and large is 5 points. I haven’t established a consistent point system for how much rewards are worth, but I probably should so that anyone can “play” the Star Jar reward system.

This morning, both boys earned a star for playing nicely and quietly together while I was trying really hard to wake myself up to get out of bed. Usually my husband gets up in the morning with the boys, but he had an early meeting so I was “on duty” starting at 6:30am, when I heard Zack get up. At 6:37am, Zack comes into my room asking me to get up. Brayden was not yet awake – still asleep in his crib, and I really wanted to stay in bed until 7:00am. I told Zack to go get a few toys and climb into bed with me. That lasted a very short while, until we both heard Brayden babbling to himself. Zack went and got a couple toys for Brayden to play with in his crib, while I pried my eyes open. It was 7:03am when I finally got out of bed, and it was a pleasant awakening – with none of the usual screaming, yelling and crying that I awake to. Needless to say, they both earned a star.

My next task is to write out a chart of rewards and the associated points. I think if they can see the chart, it might help them each want to earn more stars. I am also trying really hard not to scream at them anymore, and just be calm and direct. If I ask them to do something and they don’t listen, they get something taken away (usually it’s the toy they’re playing with that they don’t want to put down to do the thing I am asking them to do). I’ve decided I give too many warnings and too many chances, and not enough action. I mean, I’m in charge, right?

Parenting doesn’t have to be extreme, in fact, it should be balanced. There should be a balance between discipline and rewards, between boundaries and freedom, and of course full happiness. We’re working on it every day.

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