Ellie is an amazing kid. As I've mentioned before her capacity for reason at the age she is at astounds me. She has ALL the answers, and can make a pretty good case for her side of the argument too. Have I mentioned yet that she JUST TURNED THREE? We have been battling lately over many things, and the ultimate argument when you get to the bottom of it is that she thinks she is in charge and I'm just an incidental character in HER game of life.
Well, that was just not going to fly, not because I'm some sort of dictatorial parent, but because my job is to prepare her for the real world and to equip her with the skills, tools and knowledge to navigate the storms and bumps of life. And one of the biggest challenges for her to understand is the system of authority that governs all of us. That we all must follow.
Her father and I fall under God and the law. She falls under us, and because we had to make a concession and give her something to control or she would just lose it, her pets and toys fall under her authority. The chain of command. My husband is in the military, we know a lot about it. One of the primary lessons involved in teaching Ellie about this is cause and effect, real world applications of that. Yes, she can choose to disobey, but there are consequences for that just like in life and she has to be prepared to deal with them.
So, because we have been in this struggle so intensely with her recently, my friend recommended the Supernanny website for it's valuable resources on working with and teaching your children. I read through and printed some of the things off and have began implementing some of them. Here's how it works:
Ellie has jobs that she is responsible for doing every day. They sit in an envelope taped to her bedroom door and every day, with my help and supervision, she takes each card from the DO envelope and when the task on it is completed, places it in the DONE envelope. They are: Get dressed, brush your teeth, feed and water your turtle, fish and dove, and make your bed. She likes having these responsibilities. She feels like a big girl doing her "jobs" and relishes in the accomplishment of finishing them every morning.*
Then there's the reward chart. This is a chart that she can move up on for doing things I think we need to work on like using manners or helping out. When she makes it to number 10, she gets a previously agreed upon reward. We decided to use it for helping Mommy around the house. It has been working like a charm. As she sees herself move up the chart she gets excited and begs me to find more things she can help with (this is the second time around on the reward chart).
I decided to implement the house rules suggested by Supernanny today and drew them up on a piece of construction paper and explained each one to Ellie. Then we talked about the consequences for disobeying the house rules. Time out. I've heard mixed advice on time outs, but I feel like they work, and they're better than me bustin out my special Mississippi grown can of whoop ass on her.
Ellie had no problem with any of the rules except the one about jumping off the furniture, as that has become a favorite past time of hers recently. Let's call it pent up, untapped, blizzard energy. Regardless, it's dangerous and she has almost landed heavily on her sister more than once.
Only moments after I had put the house rules up, Ellie retrieved the construction paper and markers and began furiously drawing and taping away. Soon she had taped four pieces of scribbled upon paper to the wall by my house rules and explained to me that these were HER rules. The first one, she pointed out said, she CAN jump off of the furniture.
The second one? Well that one informed me that she did NOT like house rules and that I HAD to be nice to her.
The third and fourth one involved something about unlimited quantities of milk and candy but I was too busy trying not to laugh to really pay attention.
DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DEALING WITH? How does one work with a mind like that?
I asked her who had been made the mommy and who was there to protect her and keep her safe. She hung her dismally and drew a line across the floor with her bare foot. In a small voice she said, "You and Daddy." And then you could almost hear the wheels turning in her head as she looked up at me bright eyed and full of hope and exclaimed, "But I'm in charge of my toys and this rule says THEY CAN jump off the furniture!"
"Yes", I said, "Yes they can."
I have a feeling this means I'm going to see Lincoln logs flying from the dresser sometime soon. Oops.
*I have to give my wonderful aunt Joni credit for the DO and DONE jobs. She is a very big parenting mentor in my life and I have logged many hours seeking her advice on a variety of issues. I'm expecting a bill one of these days. ;)