Friday, September 29, 2006


After my son’s room wrecker incident, I decided that I
needed to make some changes in my disciplinary tactics. One tool that I rarely use is positive
reinforcement. I realize that positive
reinforcement is an extremely effective tool but it takes thought and
preparation, neither of which is my strong suit. If I have trouble getting my son dressed in the morning, I
threaten him with a time out. Instead
of encouraging him to eat, I threaten him with the loss of something: dessert,
a game, or some one-on-one play time. These tactics are rarely effective and they usually just end up making
me look bad because he always ends up getting the dessert, game, or play
time. He eats eventually. It just takes an absurd amount of coaxing.

Most parents, when faced with a frustrating situation, tend
to instinctually threaten. That’s just
how we operate. I cannot count how many
times that I have threatened my child within an inch of his life because as I
try to get everyone out the door, he strolls slowly towards the car,
checks out the flowers, and talks incessantly about how much the plants have
grown. I find myself saying over and
over again, in a voice that is just louder than his, “Get in the car. Get in the car. Get in the car. Get in
the car.”  This is a little technique
that I use to hypnotize myself ever so slightly so that I don’t lose my
mind. It is very effective for me, not
so much for my son. He actually wants
to take time to smell the roses. I will
not allow that nonsense. We must get to
the play date by 11:00 so that I don’t miss anything. If we are late, I’ll probably get stuck at a table with someone I
don’t know. It would be unfortunate if
I actually have to make an effort in a conversation.

In an effort to change my ineffective ways, I have gone
Supernanny. I created a reward chart
for my son and have made an agreement with myself that when I need to get him
to do something (as opposed to getting him to stop doing
something), I will use the reward system instead of threatening him. The reward chart resembles a bar graph and,
at the top of each bar is a picture of a reward. He can earn tickets to make his way to the top of each bar. The bars get taller as he earns more tickets
and, thus, the prizes get better. The
first prize, for example, is a cup of chocolate milk. The final prize is a trip for the whole family to Chuck E.
Cheese. It has gone really well so
far. In the mornings, when I want him
to get dressed (an activity he always resists), I lay out his clothes and set
the egg timer for 6 minutes. If he gets
fully dressed before the timer goes off, he earns a ticket. The same system works for bedtime when he
changes into his pajamas and dinnertime.

It did backfire on me initially. The first couple of times he dilly-dallied and did not get
dressed before the timer went off. As
soon as he heard the buzzer go off, he freaked. I ended up having to put the kid in time-out because he refused
to stop screaming. This caused another
room wrecker incident and, on one occasion, actually resulted in his being late
for school. After these incidents,
though, he really caught on. He’s been
getting dressed quickly and without coaxing in the morning. Our family has been able to enjoy dinner
because we are not spending the entire time trying to come up with creative
ways to get our son to eat. And, most importantly, I have
been resorting to self-hypnosis with less and less frequency.


  1. sounds like you may be on to something, this system seems a lot more kid friendly than what I was brought up with, back when I was a lad, and had to walk uphill both ways to school, etc., etc., it was customary and necessary to say yes mam, and no mam, and when need be, I was told to go cut my own switch, which I dutifully did, gee, was I dumb!!,when my mother tried this on your husband and brothers-in-law, they would just go hide in the barn until she cooled down, yeah, I'd stick with the reward thing, at worst, there's a lot less stress for.

  2. Yeah, I've heard stories about Grandma and the "Find your own switch" tactic. If nothing else, the boys sure do remember it! Trust me, there have been times when I have felt like telling my son to go find a stick so that I can beat him with it! Self control is my friend.