Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The day out...

In an effort to have some family togetherness these Summer holidays, Dave suggested we go to the State Library of Victoria, where there is currently a "Heroes and Villains" exhibition, a history of Australian Comics (books, that is)... Not only do we know a number of the people who's work was on exhibition (Dillon, Jayne :)), but one of Dave's publications was in the exhibition, plus two or three he had worked on back in the Inkspots and Fox days...

It started out ok. We talked to the boys beforehand about how we were going out to see Dad's work at the Library, and then we'd have lunch out, do some grocery shopping and come home. We explained to them that we needed them to behave, not run away from us, to walk with us at all times, sit still on the train and not to argue with us or each other...

The boys were pretty good at the bus stop with a few reminders, and on the train to the city. We went and got a drink before going into the exhibit and Erik started to argue over wanting something other than bottled water to drink. Luey also started arguing about wanting something to eat right away. We managed to talk each of them down, standing firm on the "it's water or nothing" front.

We got into the exhibit and Luey immediately started running around. It was like turning a switch. We each tried to get him to cme back to us and walk with us, but he wasn't going to listen. Then Erik tries to drag him over to us, and we're trying to get Erik to stop that and let us deal with Luey, but he won't stop either.

I managed to corale both the boys and herd them outside. Standing outside I'm lecturing them about how we'd talked about how we expected them to behave and how much Dad was looking forward to showing them his stuff on exhibition, and so on. Luey is just giving me attitude, and wanting to run off... So, out come the big guns, "If you can't stop and listen and have respect for the fact that we're trying to have a good time out together, and Dad is trying to look at this exhibition, then you are going to lose one of you toys, your Yugio board, because you're not listening to reason"... He pulled his head in.

Erik pleads their case, can they please go in again and have another look? I end up saying, that if they promise to hold my hand and walk with me, then yes we can. They promise, and in we go. They're great for a good 10 minutes, we're nearly at the end of the exhibition, just one little section to go, right near the exit, and again Luey just goes off, and Erik goes off with him... Again I take them out and this time seat them on the seats in the hallways, but Luey is determined NOT to listen this time, and within a couple of minutes, and several warnings, he looses his Yuigo board...

Then he is upset about that, and starts going off like a siren about that, and only under threat of losing his Batman figurine (he already lost the car yesterday), does he pipe down.

We go and have lunch. There are minor scuffles at lunch about little people not wanting sandwiches and wanting McDonalds instead, but we work through that.

Then we get on the train to go home, and Luey get pissed off that he can't sit next to the window facing forward. We explain that he got to do that on the way in, and now it's Erik's turn. He's not going to listen to that, and starts to go off. Then I remind him that he's already lost his Yugio board and does he also want to lose his Batman figurine now too, over a window seat facing forward when he can see out the window right where he is and he is facing forward (sitting in the seat next to Erik)... Then he starts to lose it over the Yugio board again, and goes to hit me.

I give him another warning about the Batman figurine, and he's not interested it in hearing it. So, I tell him the Batman figurine is gone too... Of course, now he's really mad. Dave tells me that at the next stop he and Luey are getting off the train and he'll meet us at home. He carries a kicking and screaming Luey off the train.

I'm feeling angry, resentful and defeated.

Dave hates family outings, and this is why, and now it'll probably be ages before there's another one.

I ring Dave when Erik and I get to our stop. He and Luey are about to catch the next train, so I decide that Erik and I will do the grocery shopping and meet Dave and Luey afterwards.

We meet them about 30 minutes later. We all go home with little event. I take Luey's toys away. Luey doesn't seem upset about it now, and in a way I'm relieved. I'm also wondering if this will make any impact. Is this the right way to go? The "punishment" is in no way related to the "crime". I feel so much at sea. I wonder if it's even worth getting the boys anything if we're just going to be taking it off them in another two weeks times, or less... Why does EVERYTHING have to be an argument. Why do they always have to "negotiate" for something "better" or "more"... Are they spoilt? Are we just mean parents?

All these thoughts swirl in my head and this little voice keeps saying, just stick this out, it isn't going to do them any harm to learn there are consequences for their actions. Not having stuff won't harm them either. They have to know you mean what you say and it's important to you, even if they don't really understand it yet. Gods I hope that voice is right!


Amanda O. said...

Not a whole lot of advice Sif, just heaps of healthy appreciation for what it takes to take out three boys at once! (ONE takes 99% of my attention... and he's still in the sling!)

For what it's worth, from what I remember of reading about child development, I thing ages 5-11 are where wheedling, wheeling, dealing and negotiation are heavily practiced "skills". I've seen this heaps in daycare, my cousins, kids I've babysat etc. and can remember my brother and I doing so as well so I don't think it's hugely uncommon.

I think if you are comfortable with your actions being fair and respectful, punishment isn't going to hurt. The only thing I could think of (and mind you, with a single 1 year old this is mere wondering aloud...) is that while the punishment acts to supress the undesirable behaviour, what is reinforcing the points in time when they were doing pretty nicely as you said they were doing pretty okay for a good bit of time? What was their motivation (internal or otherwise) for keeping that up? If that's not working for them, what could be more useful to them? (No ideas, just lots of musing aloud, thinking how I might handle it in a few years... *G*)

Do you think it would go okay if you did very short outtings to a less 'wow factor' place and then ending while it was still going great? Sort of setting them up to succeed in what you need them to do? Then maybe sort of work up to the big, exciting, longer (timewise) stuff on down the road? (Gotta imagine going to see that exhibit in the city was pretty cool... I didn't even know Dave or Jayne had stuff in an exhibit!!!)

Really curious as to what you think or have experienced, if you've tried that sort of stuff and it has/hasn't worked as you're one of the relatively few people I know with bigger boys, which my bubba seems to be determinedly toddling towards!!! =:-O

Juniper said...

Huge hugs Sif, I think that your voice is pretty reasonable!

I think following through with stuff, so kids get "consequences' for their actions is very important. Have there been times in the past when you haven't followed through? (sure have had those times myself!). Maybe your kids are testing you in a way, to see if you follow through.

I agree with Amanda, and like her idea re: setting them up to succeed. This way, they see "positive" reinforcement for their positive actions, which makes them more likely to want to repeat them, to get positive attention rather than negative.

I don't mean you should throw a huge party every time they do something that *you* expect should just be a normal way of behaviing. Just a quiet smile and appreciation of their managing to control their own behaviour. We want them to "want" to behave because it is in their best interest to, so that the whole family can be happy.

I also thought, re: in the begining when Erik tried to chase Luey and bring him back to you, that he was trying really hard to do what he thought was right, even if it was in a way that also was frustrating to you. I think in some ways, he could be praised for his "big boy, big brother" attitude, and that you appreciate him trying to help out. And then make a big show of how "erik" is doing a great job being good and not running away, and encourage him to continue to do that, to be a good influence on Luey. Let them both see, that by doing the right thing and sticking by you, that they both "benefit" in some way (eg. having your positive attention, rather that getting bought something etc... IYKWIM).

Sif, these are just some of my thoughts, not that you were asking for advice, I just wanted to share with you some of my ideas. I can totally appreciate how frustrating this must be for you! I look forward to speaking more IRL!!!

Huge hugs from me, and remember, you are doing a "great" job, and I reckon you did fabulously dealing with the situation, on such a big day out! I agree with Amanda - taking three boys out for the day is a *huge* acheivement!

Sif Dal said...

Thanks guys :)

Yes, of course, I didn't go into what we were doing to encourage the boys (because I was focusing on what didn't seem to be working)... When they're doing what we like to see we're doing a lot of verbal recognition, "Thanks for walking with us, Erik, it's so nice to walk altogether!", and lots of smiles and physical recognition (stroking hair, shoulders, that sort of thing)... We're not rewarding as in, "Wow, I'm so happy with how you sat on the bus, I think you deserve a smoothie" - but at the same time, if we're having a good/smooth time, we're naturally more inclined to do special stuff like smoothies - although we've found that usually leads to more difficult behaviour (like, oh mum and dad are relaxing now, we can go nuts again)...

Yeah, nodding on the setting them up to win thing. Even Dave said he felt partly responsible for the fact that Luey kept losing it. The exhibition just wasn't the right kind of place to take Luey, Erik maybe, but not Luey. I can see that, which is why I'm thinking taking his toys away isn't totally fair, but now I'm kind of stuck, yk?


And yes, we haven't always stuck to the consequences, and in a way, I'm sticking this time to teach myself something too...

Erik and Bryn respond to praise and acknowledgement and threats (well, I don't threaten Bryn with anything, but the rest is def. true for him)... Luey is another kettle of fish.

And this isn't even taking into consideration the whole "no praise, no punishment" theory... Argh!

Juniper said...

I know! Isn't it amazing how different our kids are? Like what works for one will not always work for the other (this is definitely the case with my two!).

I just love how during all of this, it is not just our kids that are learning, but *we* learn along with them. How do people without kids learn these sorts of things?

And don't worry about the not sticking to the consequences - I have backed down many times in the past. This is actually going to be one of my NY resolutions I think. That, and also "pick your battles". I think these two go hand in hand together, because if you pick too many battles, it is harder to stick to the consequences. I struggle with this all the time myself.

and the whole "no praise no punishment" theory.... well, I dunno about that. I know that I thrived on praise as a child, and would have been devestated with none LOL! But I absolutely understand the theory. Like the whole "good girl/bad girl" thing huh??

Sif Dal said...

Yes, exactly, the good girl/bad girl thing - there is probably a lot more to it though, I think. I REALLY need to read that book, though I suspect a lot of damage (as in conditioning to look for praise/punishment) is already there...

Picking my battles, that's what I meant by *me* having to learn something by sticking with the consequences. By sticking with the consequences the other day, I feel like I got a sense of when I picked a STUPID battle, when I expected more of Luey than he is able to give right now - be it because of maturity, being over-excited or whatever.

Dave and I were talking about this in the middle of the night (literally 2am), and we both felt very bad about the toys we took from Luey. We felt bad because a) we sensed that we'd asked more of him than he was able to give. He wasn't going to be in a position to pull it together that day, and we should have accepted that rather than pushing it to the point where we had no choice but to back down (lose the power of the consequence) or stick with the consequence knowing that it all reality it was like punishing a baby for wetting himself, yk?

So, so far we haven't threatened to remove any more toys, but tried to work through things more - saving the toys thing for serious, like dangerous, transgressions.

It's very hard though, because we're also trying very hard not to be threatening or coercive in other ways (for me, it's smacking, for Dave it's standing over them, literally) - gosh we sound like ogres! So much to work on...

casso said...

Hi Sif

First off, MAJOR hugs to you. What a day! I was exhausted, stressed and anxious just reading it (seriously). I don't know how you did it!

With the whole no praise/no punishment thing, are you talking about UP? Cos if so, yeah, the UP philosophy is very much about removing the drive for 'behaving' (which is usually driven not for doing something because of all the benefits it has in and of itself [as you said, you will just do more fun things when the day is nice because everyone is getting along] but because doing something 'nice' gets me 'stuff').

I don't have my book at the moment, Brenda currently has it and accidentally popped it in storage so I won't have it for a while now. It really is an amazing book.

As for a UP approach to the situation, I agree with what you and Dave already said - you were asking something of Luey he just couldn't give. There's nothing wrong with having separate outings for the different boys, especially when they have such different personalities. UP would even suggest that trying to organise an outing where all boys 'succeed' is going at it all backwards to begin with - because how are you defining success? What do you want to do? All go out and have a good time? Well maybe sit down and ask the boys what they would all like to do to have a good time together. If one suggests something that doesn't work for the other, discuss why and maybe offer some other ideas. Because what you want is everyone to be happy, not everyone to be quiet and "well behaved" (*shudder*) and doing exactly what you and Dave want, cos that's not going to be fun for all. Eg : Please be dead quiet while Mum and Dad collapse on the lounge for five hours without moving a muscle..LOL!

I guess the other thing is that if you're saving using the toys for the 'bad' stuff, then they're going to know that there is a 'line' to be 'crossed'. I dunno, *sigh*, UP is just so difficult to explain for specific examples that he doesn't do it in the book very often, he just talks about the underlying theory. Have you thought about joining the Yahoo Group for UP? Great to use as a sounding board for discussions and may give you a new approach if you're feeing stuck? Also check your library for it - that's when I first read it and then I bought it.

FWIW, I don't think you two sound like ogres at all! :o) I think you sound like two people with great kids trying to negotiate a path that you can all walk down together.

Cheers, Cass

Amanda O. said...

Gotta agree here, it's amazing how individual they are and it's hard to remember that what is rewarding or not is defined by the individual and not ourselves! Also have to agree about how much they teach us while we're with them. Hey Sif, what book are you refering to? I thought of Punished By Rewards off the top of my head but then I have a feeling it's not that one you mean? Sorry for so many questions! L is deciding to prove what a determined little singleminded, self-determined individual he is lately! (I have NO idea where he'd get that from... ;-)

Good luck with your resolutions re the water! :-)

Sif Dal said...

The book is Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I've been meaning to read it for ages, you have to order it from the states though. I haven't checked the local library because I'm very slack with library books, prefer to read my own books...

casso said...

cabrissi - yes it is the same author. AK has a full-on agenda about it! Haven't read PBR yet but am currently pretending to read 'The Schools Our Children Deserve' - which means that I own it, it has a bookmark in it about twenty pages in but I haven't read on yet. Insert guilty, blushing, emoticon here. :o)

Amanda O. said...

Oh cool, I figured it sounded kind of like him but the initials Casso mentioned didn't line up! ;-) I have read some of Kohen's stuff ages ago, have to re-read it asap as I have a 5 minute memory. :rolls eyes: Having a bunch of his essays sent over with my next lot of stuff... it's dirt cheap used on!

Good Job!