Senor Pants: What We Did That Worked

Remember when I said that someone I know was having some…uh, issues?

Well.  Times got desperate, I am not ashamed to say, and because desperate times call for desperate measures, we started just throwing things at the wall, metaphorically, to see what stuck, and a few things worked, thank the baby Jesus, and it’s SO SO SO AWESOME to be enjoying my five year old, finally finally finally!, so I thought I would share a few of our techniques just in case you are also too busy parenting to actually read a parenting book.

First of all, please be aware that we already do ALL THAT STUFF that everyone does, with the time outs and the choices and all the other things that everyone always wants to tell you that you should be doing. I am not that clueless, and I have brothers and sisters. I can give choices with the best of them, ok? So that stuff is already on board. This is the other extra stuff that worked.

1. Eli hasn’t napped since he was three, so I just sort of gave up on any kind of quiet time, but now we’ve decided that he still needs a half an hour rest period every day. I am not even sure who this rest period is for, but as soon as Katie gets up from her nap, Eli goes in for his.  He does not have to sleep (and although occasionally he does fall asleep most of the time he does not), but he has to be quiet and he has to stay in bed with the lights off and the shades drawn. If he talks, the half an hour starts over.

2. No screens of any kind except TV.  So this was a huge one.  First we tried no violent games on the Kindle Fire. We tried to limit Ipod time.  We tried using video games as bribes.  We tried limiting them to a certain amount of time or a certain time period of the day. None of it worked, and Eli just got more and more and more obsessed with the stupid Ipod and Kindle, and then he started beating games that Erik and I couldn’t even play, and seriously, playing video games was all he ever talked about.  It was all he ever wanted to do, and still we were SO reluctant to cut this out entirely, because seriously, this child has not stopped talking for two and half years.  He literally never stops talking. Sometimes half an hour of Ipod time was the only quiet we got in a 14 hour day, and we needed him just to STOP TALKING, we really did.  But as an experiment borne of pure and true desperation we cut it out the screens and it made all the difference in the world, immediately.  Immediately.  To the point that it wasn’t worth going back to it, even for that half an hour of precious precious silence.  So the screens “went to work” with Erik and they are not coming back.

3. No more violent tv shows.  So somehow we had drifted from Pingu and Shaun the Sheep into Transformers and super heroes.  We probably do watch more tv than we should, still, but at least this is not people blasting each other sabers all the time, or whatever. I know we can’t keep this up forever, but it does seem to help the behavior so we try to be pretty picky now about what he can watch.

4. Cramming food into him all the time.  So you all may or may not know that Eli had all those issues with Failure to Thrive and food allergies and falling off the weight charts.  He has never been a great eater.  He is very skinny. I bribe him to do things using celery. He’s no longer gluten free (thank you jesus!) but his increased appetite caught us a bit unawares because he has never been that child who eats big meals or gets hungry all the time, and then suddenly, bam!, he was that kid, and we didn’t realize that he needed to eat a lot more than he was eating.  Now I try to cram food into him all day long, especially in the stretch between lunch and dinner.  If he falls off that blood sugar cliff, holy cats look out.

5. Energon Cubes.  We tried all kinds of reward systems, sticker charts, buttons, all kinds of things, but it wasn’t until Erik hit on the energon cubes chart that a reward chart actually worked for Eli.  Ironically, energon cubes are what the Transformers eat, or absorb, or whatever.  We have a chart with twenty squares on it on the refrigerator, with little magnets that you can slide around on it.  He earns points for doing good things or for chores, and he loses points for being a dillhole, and he has responded really well to the sliding scale aspect of it. I’d say once every two weeks he gets to 20 and then he gets a reward.  A dad date or to rent a movie on Amazon or something like that.  If I get the feeling that he’s sort of losing hope of getting to twenty, I will start giving them out a bit freely for things, and we had to work really hard in the beginning to go in the kitchen and actually move the slider because Erik and I tend to be a bit bad at threatening or promising things and not carrying them through, but now it’s a very established system and it works wonders. I love that unlike stickers, you can take things away. I also try to keep certain ideas in mind because when he loses a cube, he tends to go into “WHAT WILL I DO TO GET IT BACK?” hysterics and I like to have some answers ready, just stuff like “clean up your toys” or “wipe off the baseboards.”

I am a little ashamed of myself that it took me this long to figure out some of this stuff.  But I am mostly over it because although this child is still five years old and is a stinker much the time, he’s no longer just unbelievably awful all day long, and it has made all the difference in the world.  I am just so relieved and happy and GLAD to have my wonderful funny beautiful amazing boy back.  I really am. Even if he has been talking without a pause for breath for two and half years.




8 Responses

  1. I laughed at “dillhole.”

    And I’m so happy that you found things that work. Man alive.

  2. This is great! I’m glad you found a bunch of stuff that is working for you. You are spectacular parents.

  3. we do something similar to your cubes, only each “fuzzy” is worth 10min of whatever you want (TV, video games, computer time etc) and can be used anytime. The key for us was, we start over fresh each day, no saving fuzzies. If the kids act up and they don’t have any fuzzies to take away they earn negative fuzzies, those carry over until you earn them out (no matter how long it takes).

    I’m glad you found something that works for your family. It is the best feeling ever to feel like your life is not out of control and that you can enjoy family time! Hooray for you guys!

  4. You are such a good mom.

  5. 1. This is to prove that I read your blog today.
    2. What were the immediate noticeable effects from no more screens? Because I am VERY UNWILLING to take away the iPad (it is how I get my quiet time each afternoon). I’m pretty strict about what he watches, but he is obsessed with playing games and getting new games and asks for it first thing in the morning and ALL FREAKING DAY… I hate that. I haven’t noticed it tied to behavior, that’s why I’m asking. (I am bad at noticing things.)

  6. What is the obsession with games? We don’t have a gaming system, we don’t have an iPad. We rarely let the boys play with our phones or the computer. And yet. The Boy, 4, asks constantly for the few — crappy — games we’ve let him play on special occasions (ie 15-hour car trips). I don’t get it.

  7. Maggie — our almost-6-year-old did the same thing. ALL DAY LONG. And he’d just sit there, bored, waiting for us to tell him it was ok to play. We started a time-out from iPad this week and it’s been MUCH better. He doesn’t beg, because he knows he’s not getting it, and he goes and finds other stuff to do on his own! It’s crazy. We were extremely unwilling to take it away, for the same reasons you have both said — he’s quiet! For the one time all day! But it makes the rest of the day more bearable, if that makes sense.

  8. My Mom made us take a “reading rest” every afternoon. We didn’t have to nap, and we didn’t even really have to read. But we had to get in bed and we had to keep quiet. :p

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