Monday, November 26, 2007


I am beginning to find out just why it is that discipline is hard. Because I am used to being the center of my kids' universe; because I want them to like me; because I want to be their friend; for all those reasons that, sometimes, you just have to get over.

We tried the sticker chart, and it worked great for the first three days. Yesterday--not so much. It was not entirely Barak's fault; I'd been out all afternoon helping out a friend, and he and Iyyar had been with Abba, which meant lots of fun but not so much structure. When I came home, after bedtime, they were all still eating dinner (peanut butter and crackers and yogurt). Baths weren't happening at that point, and Barak was starting to get his post-bedtime hyper-wound-up look. The one in which he squinches his whole mouth over to one side of his face, and you know you're in for it. What I probably should have done was move Iyyar, who is generally really easy to get to sleep, straight into bed, and taken my time with Barak. Instead, I moved right to bedtime with both of them, which in retrospect was a mistake. Barak did not want to go to bed. He refused to go to bed, in fact, and even after I'd put them both in bed, turned out the light, and left, he came out and screamed. I put him back, calmly. He came out. I put him back again and counted, giving him time between counts along with plenty of reminders that there was going to be a sticker tomorrow morning if he could go to bed nicely but if he continued screaming he would lose the sticker. I got to three, he lost his sticker, he didn't CARE about his sticker and didn't WANT to go to bed. I closed the door.

And he did what he hasn't done since the last time I got scary in his face--picked up the biggest, heaviest toy he could find and started swinging it against the door. Hard. That I couldn't ignore, because a) he'll break the door if he keeps it up and b) if he ever does that with another child behind him, we could be heading to the emergency room. I had to get him to stop. So I opened the door, got in his face, and calmly but forcefully (I hope) told him that what he was doing was NOT OKAY and he had to stop it and get into bed. He said no. I said it again. He said no again.

What now? I couldn't think of anything good, so I said, "Barak, if you do not get into bed right now I will take your whole sticker chart and put it in the garbage."


I think it was a combination of the scary face and the incredibly mean threat but he fell apart sobbing and got into bed. Once he was clearly getting into bed, I went over, gave him a kiss, and tucked him in, as he told me, hiccuping and mostly unintelligible, that he didn't want me to put his sticker chart in the garbage. He went to sleep. I went back into my office feeling like the Worst Mother Ever. How mean was that to say I was going to put his whole sticker chart in the garbage? Um... very? But I couldn't think of anything else.


Today has been great, though. Barak was fun, Iyyar was fun, Barak played nicely with Iyyar and not only that, he spontaneously cleaned up a couple of times. He also did a couple of things I thought were so cool. One was display again the fact that he has a memory that borders on what a certain friend of mine would term "freakish." To wit...

Last year, just before Chanuka, I bought a big box of Clics, meaning them for a Chanuka gift/activity for the boys and their visiting cousins. Once I took the box out, though, it was clearly a mistake; six kids, three of whom were still putting things in their mouths, and the pieces were instantly going everywhere. I tried taking them out a couple of times and then just put them away. They've been on top of the armoire ever since, never mentioned, barely visible. Today, since Barak was being so cooperative and Iyyar was being so mellow, I thought I'd try it again. I took down the box and f0und an empty plastic box, and sorted the pieces into choking hazard/non-choking-hazard sizes. While I did this, Barak cleared up the rest of the toys. Then I put away the box of little pieces and set the big pieces down on the floor for the kids to play with. Barak looked at them. "Clics are for Chanuka," he informed me. "They're for Chanuka when Tanta Sara is here." Which was a year ago.

And tonight, while I was cuddling with Barak in the rocking chair at bedtime (striving desperately to avoid a repeat of last night) we talked about the sticker chart. "How many stickers are on your chart?" "Three!" "And how many do you need to get a treat?" "Five!" Then I asked, "How many more stickers do you need for your treat?" "One, two!" Mental math! Wow.

Oh, and I didn't mention Iyyar's time out. This happened on Thursday, I think. I took out the box of what we call little Lego, which is actually the medium-sized Lego--between "choking hazard" and "little baby" sized. Barak built what was an actual recognizable crane, using pieces of fence for the crane's arm. Iyyar saw it and started stalking it. We had a few rounds of Barak howling no, Iyyar lunging for the crane, and Imma running interference. Yes, we share our toys, but Barak is by no means expected to allow Iyyar to come destroy his Lego creations. I talked to Barak about how to tell Iyyar no, how to make a "no no" face, etc. There was no question that Iyyar knew perfectly well that he wasn't supposed to grab Barak's crane, but he kept grinning and trying it anyway. Again, and again, and again.

Eventually, Barak sat building with his Lego pieces between the wall and the dresser and his back to Iyyar, while I tried to keep Iyyar distracted with other things. Then, over the space of just a minute, Iyyar found a toy plastic orange section and started tossing it around; Barak got interested; the orange section went in the air, both of them went for it on all fours, and Barak slammed his head hard into the corner of the armoire, giving himself a big bump on his forehead. Ohhh.

I sat down with a wailing Barak, while Iyyar squatted on the floor with his trophy (he'd gotten the orange wedge) and watched. And then remembered the now unguarded crane. And went over, grabbed it, and broke it. Gleefully, while looking right at me. Ha ha, Imma! You weren't fast enough and I got it!

Barak, naturally enough, started howling at an earsplitting pitch. I went over, picked up Iyyar, said "NO! Iyyar, you don't touch that! You're going in your crib." I picked up the remnants of the crane, went into the hall, and beckoned to a suddenly silent Barak to come with me. We went into the kitchen while Iyyar screamed his protest, and reassembled the crane.

"Iyyar broke my crane. Dat wasn't nice. He's not sposeda do dat."

"I know, sweetie. You're right. That's why Iyyar's having a time out. He didn't listen to Imma, right? And when you don't listen to Imma and you keep not listening, then you get a time out."

"Also Iyyar gets a time out?"

"Right, also Iyyar."


The day had been a little bumpy until then, but after that point I had a magically transformed happy cooperative little boy for the rest of the day. Oh wait--there isn't a double standard where Iyyar gets to do whatever he wants and I get time-outs! Iyyar gets time-outs too! How about that...

And since this post has been mostly about Barak, I will mention that yesterday, when I came back from my friend's house, I came back with her eight-week-old baby in a car seat. We were only a few blocks away, she'd had to take the car seat out of her car, and it was faster for me to walk back with the baby than it would have been to put the car seat back in. So in I walked with a tiny little baby. Iyyar stared. "Ba," he said. "Baby," I said. "Ba ba," said Iyyar. "Baby," I said. "Bah bee!" he said, grinning and pointing in total, obvious delight.

Let's hope he's still as excited about bah bees about two months from now...

1 comment:

whsamet said...

I think you're doing magnificently. It really gets no easier when they are older. Abe is 15 and frankly we indulge our kids so little that there is little to take away. He has no computer of his own, no video games, and I need him to have the cell phone so I know where he is. And to my otherwise mature and sweet, smart and funny son the logic of "If you do your homework you won't fail out the school you love and Mom won't have a nervous breakdown and you can have privledges" has yet to sink in. Grant me peace and wisdom. I need it.