Monday 30 May 2011

What a difference a week makes...

…and the difference is me! Yes, I am humming this to the tune of ‘what a difference a day makes, 24 little hours…

This time last week I was itching to write a post about Miss M and the song that was in my head then was ‘How do you solve a problem like Miss M (or more correctly Maria)?’ Yes, I really do think in song, you can just call me Mary Poppins if you like. But you know how a post just does not make it out of your head sometimes?

Let’s roll back a week and see what was on my mind. Miss M is driving me crazy, she is up to some of her usual tricks and I just have no idea why she is such a menace. Her sense of fun seems to be a bit warped, I’m told that she is similar to me as a child but of course I cannot believe that for one moment. Already she has left the dinner table under the guise of going to the toilet and has taken a tub of clover with her to smear around the sink, then the next day she emptied my hand cream into the kitchen sink to make a picture.

What else has she been up to? Oh yes, she has painted her nails green with a felt tip pen, tattooed her body with a black marker, cut some of her hair as she did not realise the scissors would really cut if she was just playing! How about the air freshener incident, spray the whole can down the toilet as it was a bit smelly and then sit in the small toilet and eat Easter egg that you have climbed up the 6ft cabinet to reach off its top. Do you think she was trying to get high?

Water fights in the bathroom, hosing the garden and her sister when I am not looking, emptying every board game in the playroom. Have you ever tried to find the missing parts for operation? Yes, she really is a minx!

However, as I started off by saying things have shifted in the last week. Hooray, thank heavens for that. Do you know what has changed? Well, the start of it all was the realisation that discipline just does not work for Miss M, you can talk to her, shout at her, sit her on the step, send her to her bedroom, take away her toys and even give her a tap and it has no effect at all. You know that child that just gives you a bored face, that’s her. If she was a few years older I fear she may put her hand up and say ‘whatever Mum!’.

So when you know that what you are doing does not work you have to change it and yet again I remembered that praise really does work for Miss M (Why do I keep forgetting this? doh). The book I have been reading recently advocates teaching your child they are intrinsically good and not labelling them, so this is what I moved to. We have praised the good and ignored the small aspects of the bad. I have caught her about to misbehave and said to Miss E ‘oh we are doing your sticker chart soon, do you think you will be getting some stickers for good behaviour?’ Miss M will visibly stop in her tracks, perk her ears up and say ‘I’m a good girl mummy, I’ll get some stickers’. At that point I’ll hug and her and reaffirm she is a good girl and I love that about her. Of course, I am having to make sure Miss E is praised and rewarded too.

As for the sticker charts we use, I draw them on a big piece of paper, dead simple. The kids tell me which design they want and I use my terrible art skills and we buy the cheapest stickers possible and then I shower them with stickers for all their good behaviour and reinforce that they are all well-behaved children! Children learn what they live.

When there have been bigger incidences of naughtiness and there has Miss E’s porcelain teapot got smashed on purpose, Miss M decided to take Mummy’s nail polish and do her nails (and fingers too!) then I have had to acknowledge these. But instead of punishment, I have withheld stickers and strangely this has worked, the lure of extra stickers tomorrow, when she has not misbehaved, is a carrot that she wants to get. We have had a special focus on telling the truth and owning up when she does something naughty and this has worked a treat. She gets a massive amount of praise and hugs for being good and telling the truth and then we have to address that the incident that caused her to lie was not good behaviour and must not happen again.

Let me just tell you what the biggest difference has been though. It has been me and my attitude. I had got to a point where I viewed Miss M as the naughty one, I may never have said it outright but in calling her Minxy I may have promoted it inadvertently. What a realisation! With this in mind, I am just about to go and make her a little certificate now - Mummy’s star of the week is what she is!

Anyone else make their own sticker motivation charts? I have a friend who used pebbles in a jar which I liked. Tell me about your good ideas for motivating little ones and I may just adopt them in the coming weeks. 

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