Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Welcome to "The Last Resort" - we hope you enjoy your stay

Hello world,

This week has been one of the most difficult of my parenting career. Not because of the foot, or the heat (and the pool is still empty...PEOPLE!! That is why we pay one million dollars in HOA dues.....) or even the stinker (aka Cubby). It is because my 6 year old is winning the battle of control of the house. It perplexes me.

I am a STRICT mom. Fair, but strict. I don't let these kids get away with much. Just ask my mom and several of my friends, they think I might be a little bit TOO strict. I just feel that there is behavior that is unacceptable and it doesn't matter if you are 2 or 20, I won't allow it. Ever. Things like being unkind, impolite or sassy. Things like being disrespectful to others, taking things that aren't yours. The basics. It doesn't matter that my 18 month old doesn't REALLY understand that he is not allowed to take another child' s toy away (I know it is a development thing). Each and every time he does it, he will be walked over to the other child, give back the toy and give a "soft touch" (a pat on the arm or head). EVERY TIME. At some point he will understand and it will just have always been that way. A phrase that is often used in my home is "try again". We also do the "one, two, three" method with my daughter. After the third chance she is OUT. Sometimes she gets three chances in a row, for example.

"Lu, it is time for bed"

"But MOM!!"

"That's one"


"That's two"

...and if she makes it to three; things will be very grim (no song, no stories, etc). Sometimes it is over the course of a day. For example, hitting her brother....if I have to get to three by the end of the day, then things are REALLY grim. It works too. I have found that it allows me to discipline while being unemotional. If I get worked up, we loose ground very quickly. She knows the rules and she knows what is expected of her and if she does the wrong thing...well, the rules are clear. This has been very effective ever since she was small. That was yesterday. Now she is almost 6 and the rules have changed. Basically, I don't make the rules or hold the power anymore.

I have always struggled with 6 year old girls. Sorry. They are awkward and silly, too big to be little and too little to be big. I kind of dreaded this age anyway. I would take my then three year old to the park and watch the older girls and dread the day she became one. I didn't know that 6 would be so HARD. I joke that it is just a fun preview for 13, and I am sure it is, but I am amazed at how one (small) person can set the mood in our home.

Lately, Lu has decided that the rules in our home are optional and that it doesn't matter the consequence that is given, being sassy or having the last word is more important. Going to bed early? Oh well. No TV or computer? Who cares, she'll just draw. No snacks? She didn't want one anyway. The other night, she was in bed early and she actually GOT UP and went outside to play in the back yard. I had to physically carry her back in. Clearly, the key to discipline is that the consequence has to be more uncomfortable then the behavior (although..someday I am told they will want to be good for the sake of being good....I am skeptical). That seems to be the missing key. I found myself constantly yelling at her and having to be louder and longer as the week progressed. Short of physically punishing her (which I am not totally opposed to, but this was not the correct solution here) I didn't know what to do. Every interaction we had was negative...and we had to interact 300,000 times a day. It made our house feel like a dark cloud was hanging over it all the time. I was cranky and at the end of my rope all the time. Frankly, I was battle weary in a way I hadn't been since she was two. I dreaded getting up in the morning.

I came to the realization that the balance of power needed to shift in a BIG way. She needed to understand that I was in charge and that I wouldn't tolerate this anymore. BUT, I needed to do it in a way that would allow me to discipline her w/ out high emotion but make it consistent too. Sounds like a challenge, huh? I borrowed an idea from the sister of my friend Suzi.

Welcome to "The Last Resort".

What is the Last Resort? One morning last week (when it was only 8:30 and we had already had multiple fights), I decided that she wasn't going to get to have ANYTHING in her room. Nothing but a bed (and I let her keep the pink sheets and not put the white ones on...that is the last resort at the Last Resort).

We moved EVERY SINGLE thing out of her room. All the posters on the wall, all the toys, all the books, all the clothes. EVERYTHING. She has to earn them back. It is nice to have such a clean room. See the pink shelf that used to be full of books, Barbies and Polly Pockets? Gone.

See the desk that used to have paper, crayons, markers and glue. Empty (I even took the chair) and I put them in the closet where the door will remain shut.

All her clothes are gone too (I put mine in her closet and hers in mine). She has to ask me if she wants to change and I get to decide what she will wear...instead of the usual, one-of-us-picks-the-top-and-the-other-picks-the-bottom (to make sure she semi matches). The best part is that I made her do it. I got a bunch of baskets and told her to fill them up and put them in her brother's room. She had to be the little pack horse and believe me, she was crying the whole time. It really made it hit home for her. She was even late for school b/c she was taking so long.

I know this seems drastic and it is, but without relaying the play by play, it was necessary.

The result? We are on day three and it is working. Every minute of the day is spent w/ Lauren trying to do things to earn stuff back. She keeps saying "isn't it great how happy I am being?" "Isn't it wonderful that I am playing with Jacob?" You know what? It IS!!! Instead of us focusing all day on the bad things that are happening, she is fixated on the good. She has already earned back her radio (so she can listen to music at night) and her pretty pillows for her bed (she IS my daughter after all.....home decor is very important). Tomorrow might be the chair for her desk, or the Polly's. We will see.

Harmony is restored, we are having loving words again and I am slowly editing the toys (she will never know). The Last Resort just might have saved our summer.


This is me said...

This sounds like my life with my three year old. Almost word for word. Oddly enough, it appears our daughters also have the same name (maybe there's something to that). Mine's probably not old enough for the Last Resort, though. Maybe on a smaller scale, like taking away her favorite toys, etc. Just not everything in the room.
Good luck with it. I love strict moms because I am one, too.

Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Completely excellent idea. I think 6 is really hard, too, except mine is a boy (worse). Sometimes drastic is just what they need! Kudos to you, Mom!

compulsive writer said...

You are so smart to do this while she is only six instead of waiting till she's 15.

Good luck. I sure wish I would've heard this idea before now (my headstrong daughter is 11 next month.)

Oh, and I love that you call it "The Last Resort." Maybe it's not too late. I guess I could resort to such measures if I needed to.

Here's a funny thing that just occurred to me, however. My kids will tell you a mean mom, but I am very much a "choose your battle" kind of gal. (I'm also an old mom, so there are times when I just plain don't have it in me...)

In any case, there are times when I know I need to crack down or take some drastic measure and I really have to psych myself up to do it because I am expecting resistance to the scale of Armageddon.

Initially I do get ranting and raving and gnashing of teeth. But it's almost half-hearted and it dissipates much more quickly and easily than I expected.

I am coming to believe that there are times when our kids actually want us to reign them in and although they might not even understand that consciously, they respond to it.

Someday I will tell you about when my 10-year-old daughter bought a $30 jacket as a present for a sixth-grader she had a crush on and what happened when her angry mother marched down to the school to stop make things right.

Tracy M said...

Wow Bek! I am so totally impressed with your ingenuity and your follow through and your self-discipline!! This might actually be the answer to the problems I am having with Jeffrey, my almost 5 year old.

Way better than yelling all day- exhausing and stressful for the whole family, and probably way more effective than threats and vinegar on the tongue for sassy mouth... (that is the one I won't tollerate, and the sass is bad these days)

She may not understand for years how much love it took for you to do this, but someday she will be glad you did. Good mom!

La Yen said...

I will remember this for the future--we have just started the "Uh Oh." It is working, except when W does it she cries. Immediately. It kind of breaks my heart...

Christy said...

This is SO Dr. Phil! You're the boss and you control whether or not the family is happy or sad. Perfect. Kudos to you, Bek!

Julie said...

I LOVE it.

wendysue said...

Good for you! I'm wondering if you think this would work for husbands that have yet to finish projects? Take away the computer and ESPN maybe?

Bek said...

Hey ladies,
Thanks for the support. I was honestly expecting horror.

Again, I am strict and I do pick my battles...we let lots of things go that I don't feel are important (like watching tv...I don't really care, as long as it isn't Bratz, or too old for her).

We had a smaller version of this in the past called "toy time out". When she was naughty (or usually the consequence of 1,2,3, one of her toys would go to "time out". On the top of the TV armoire. So she could see it and be sad that she didn't have it. THis worked when she was about 2.

Once she was three, I told her that if she didn't shape up and take care of her toys we would give them to the "poor children" aka, Goodwill. Only one time did I have to do it. I made her pack up a few toys, I put her in the car and made her drop them off. I only had to do that once......then she knew I meant business. Mean, maybe, but how traumitized is she going to be because she has less STUFF. Ironically, we go to Goodwill all the time and buy toys! We ARE the poor children. :-)

Compulsive, I want to hear that story.

Bek said...


We do the vinegar. It still works. I don't have to do it as often, but it is another good (unemotional) way to put your point across. Plus, it is portable!! I can do it in the store or car, still be consistant and not get angry.

This makes me sound like Attilla the Hun of children. I am not. Someone who knows me in person needs to back me up.....

Naddin, I have no idea what I am going to do when my boy is 6. He is already stronger then me, he is impervious to pain and he likes the taste of vinegar. I think I will send him to Tracey's Jeffery to sort out!!! :-)

kristib said...

I think this sounds like a fabulous idea- not really Attilla the Hun, more like I'm-the-mom-and-I-mean-business. Hopefully I remember this when mine gets older. He just turned 2 in March and is already getting pretty strong-willed.

wendysue, I certainly hope this works for husbands too! If I took away Internet from my husband, I don't think he'd know what to do with himself.

Julie said...

Bek, you're awesome. What a great strategy! When my kids say that I'm a mean mom, I tell them, "Thanks! That means I'm doing my job well!" A good disciplinarian means a good parent, in my book. I'll have to remember this trick. (It won't work for A--, but maybe for Lego-Addict S--.)

Bek said...

Today she earned back her desk chair. Plus, she had to go to the dentist and have a cavity filled (w/ a shot) so I let her choose another toy b/c she was so good. She chose to have all her shoes back (that means she gets to choose). So far, she hasn't picked toys. We may be on to something....

Fizzle said...

Yeah, actually I was expecting a lot of horrified responses, too, and I thought I was going to showcase my hard bone for saying, "well, sometimes the last resort is the only resort."

All these things to consider which are not yet even on my mind. Let me get to picking up the kid, then I'll think of stripping his nursery of all goodies 'til he stop that annoying night time crying... ;-)

Bek said...

Hi Fizzle,

Welcome. I hope that didn't scare you. It isn't all bad. :-) This is actually made our home a much better place to be.

EVERYONE ELSE--you should real Fizzle's blog. She and her hubby are in the early stages of adopting from Ethiopia. This will be me in a few months. Good Luck with the homestudy. There are other amoms on this blog that can relate....

compulsive writer said...


the story is posted.

just for you.

sarah said...

I am very impressed. It seems so Supernanny, and you aren't even getting paid. I also heard the last resort as they get older is finally to remove the bedroom door. However, I've always felt this would actually be punishing yourself!

Bek said... me. The Last Resort is as much of a punishment (if not more) for me then her. :-)

How is the wait for Baby G? (She is another Ethiopia adopter/waiter).

more caffeine, please said...

I so needed this post. Me and Junior are on the outs all day lately. This morning he had been in time-out THREE times BEFORE 6:30 a.m.. And then I feel bad. But he's HARD right now.

Bek said...

MCP....I feel you pain. Like I said, I hadn't felt this battle weary since she was 2 1/2'ish. The difference is that when she was 2 she didn't know any she does. Doesn't make it easier...but having her act like a fool now makes me feel like all that stuff wasn't worth it? Ya know.

Two is hard. There is a reason my children are 4.5 years apart. It was 3.5 years before I would even consider the idea of doing it again. :-)

Queen Scarlett said...

Thanks for posting and... being brave to share. I love learning things like this... saving it in my store of advice in case I need to pull it out.

Suzie Petunia said...

You have inspired me! I did this today to my daughter's room and so far it is working beautifully! Thank you! Thank you!

AzĂșcar said...

Great one for the file.