Monday, September 29, 2008

To Your Room

In a comment on my post about tantrums, Niffer asks:
What do you do when your kids throw a fit in public and you can't send them to their room?
First, when we've done a good job with the tantrums at home, the probability of tantrums in public seems to be reduced... but not eliminated. There are two things that we've tried. One works well for toddler aged children, but requires a lot of planning and assistance from a friend. The other is easier to implement, but you have to do it with older kids.

What we've done a couple of times is to establish the reality of having the kids go to their rooms when they're in public. We had problems with our kids in the grocery store. My wife couldn't get through the store without being really hassled by the kids. So, she made an agreement with a next door neighbor. They would each help each other out. So before going to get some groceries, she called our neighbor and asked if she'd be available for the next 90 minutes or so. She said yes. So my wife took the kids to the store. At which point, predictably, they started misbehaving. To which, she calmly said, "My ears and eyes are being hassled by your behaviour. Would you prefer to be well behaved children with me, or spend some time in your room?"

She tells me that they looked at her funny for a second and went right back to doing what they were doing. At which point, my wife called our neighbor. The neighbor drove to the store, scooped up all our kids, and took them to their rooms. Where they stayed until mom got done with the grocery shopping. She took an extra long time just to drive the point home. The neighbor permitted exit of the room only for potty breaks. The next time they went to the store, and started misbehaving, my wife asked the *exact* same question. That was a much nicer trip.

We've only had to do this a couple of times. One of the times, I had to come and pick up the kids. But they again spent the rest of the time in their rooms until mom got home.

Older Kids
The other thing that we do, mostly with our older kids, is that we give them a delayed consequence. That is when they're misbehaving, we say something like, "You know, that behavior isn't working for me. You want to change it or let me think up a consequence?" If they don't change the behavior, we say something like, "Ok. Got it. You'd prefer a consequence. I don't have one right now, but I'll think of something. Try not to worry about what I come up with." Then later on when we can implement the consequence, we say, "Hey remember that consequence? I came up with something." And then lay it on them.

We try to make delayed consequences a bit more creative. Here are some things we've said:
  • Son, you remember when you were hassling me in the store? Yeah, me too. That gave me a real headache. And I think I'm going to need to not hear your favorite TV program for a week so that my head can recover.
  • I spent all of my extra energy being hassled by you in the store. Now, I don't have any left to scrub the floors like I had planned. Would you rather scrub the floor or pay 3 weeks allowance to have someone come in and do it?
  • Yes, tonight is normally desert night, but I got so hassled by my experience at the store, that I forgot to get it! (Sweets are a serious motivator for my kids.)
  • You know, I'd love to take you to the (fill in the blank, swimming pool, playground, etc) but you remember the store? I used up all of my energy dealing with you and I don't have any left.
Our kids use up our energy a lot. So, we've got to the point, where if they're hassling us and we can't implement an immediate consequence, we dramatically say, "Oh, my energy. It's getting drained! OOOH... it's going..." This is usually a key word that lets them know something later on is coming. Or another favorite one liner is, "Try not to worry about how I'm going to react to that later." I think our kids have translated that into "Uh oh, I better start worrying a lot." Which is our goal.


Niffer said...

MJH, you really are a "Love and Logic" parent, aren't you? I certainly don't mean that as an insult. Both my husband and I were raised with it. However, my mom started when we were older so we never experienced the "go to your room" when we were in public. It's interesting for me to hear a real example of someone who used that technique and see that it worked, not just in a book.

Thanks for sharing!

mjh said...

Yes, guilty as charged. But a couple of comments:

I only present the good stories. I don't mean to filter out the bad stories. It's just that when I read something that I can't answer or that I fail at, I don't really have much to say. About the best I can say then is "Yup. Me, too." But that answer is (IMHO) not interesting enough to merit a blog post.

So all you really get to read are the stories for which I have something to say. As a result I present a fairly lopsided view of our parenting on this blog. Sorry about that.

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