Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Boy Wisdom

‎[Talking to myself in the car, having one of those moments where you briefly forget the child is in the back seat...]

ME: "Sigh. I'm so cranky and pissy..."
KAI: "Why are you so cranky...(thinks for a moment on the repercussions vs. sheer fun of repeating the second word) and pissy?"
ME: "Oh. Uh, because I've got a lot of work to do and I'm not working fast enough. I'm just a little stressed about getting it all done."
KAI: "Hakuna Matata"
Wise boy...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toys for Tests...or...Positive Reinforcement Disaster Zone

OMG! Talk about good intentions going horribly awry! I’m pretty regimented about Kai’s school work. His school doesn’t give homework to the kids, but I believe that aptitude is only part of the formula for academic (and life) success. Discipline, repetition, creative process, and good self-esteem make up most of it. You can have a brilliant kid, but they’ll fail without the discipline or positive reinforcement. So… I went back to the concepts of homeschooling with him and began his homeschool curriculum with him, in partnership with the school, so we’re in sync with what he’s doing. That being said, the school DOES test. They test fairly frequently, so, along with his nightly homework and curriculum, Kai studies. He hasn’t gotten anything less than 100% on anything in a long time. A while back I started letting him pick a reward for getting 100% as an affirmation, to make it all fun. Rewards for Kai are always toys, so somehow the “toys for tests” thing began and became somewhat ritualized, which was fine, until he thought he’d accidentally screwed up his last test (“In crayon Mama! You can’t erase crayon!”), and FREAKED out in school because he wasn’t going to get a toy. He got the 100% and got his toy, we talked about it all, and I let it go. Didn’t think much of it……….till today. TODAY was his statewide MAPS test. This is the test where they test the kids against the state average. Kai was ranked in the 97% for math, and 99% for reading on the last test. It took quite a bit of time and effort to explain to him why you couldn’t get higher than the 99th percentile, (which really pissed him off). Anyway, SOMEHOW he got it in to his head that if he got in the 99th percentile on both reading and math, that would equate to some sort of mega toy experience (He was actually aiming for one of those $350 battery powered plastic cars that you can ride in, which would never happen in a million years and where he even got the notion I don’t know. He’s insane. It would like me getting him a BB-Gun). Needless to say, I’ve spent much of the evening consoling him for not being PERFECT. He’s convinced he psyched himself out. All he could think about was the car and not the test while he was testing. Cried for a good while tonight about it all. Kai’s all upset because he’s convinced that there will now be no toys forever, but far worse, he won’t have a perfect score. He began reciting back to me every question he got wrong, what he did wrong, why he got it wrong, what he was thinking about when he messed it up, and now is calling himself stupid because, “They were easy Mama”. I’m laying there with my arms around him, kissing him on the forehead and telling him how proud I am of him and it’s no big deal while he’s crying that he’s ashamed of himself. Sigh.

Before we started this he bought all his own toys with his allowance money, or he’d wheedle things out of me anyway. He’s got close to $300 saved. It’s not like the kid doesn’t have other paths to toys. So I reminded him of that. It was like someone smacked him in the head. He just went, “Oh yeah”. I was speechless through most of it. I had no idea how to fix this. My intent was to make doing well a joyous thing. Kai, being the Virgo litigator that he is, saw it as a black and white, be all end all MUST ACCOMPLISH thing. Egad. I told him I didn’t want to take away celebrating his great performance, but maybe we should do it with Dunkin Donuts instead. IMMEDIATELY he turns around and says, “So if I don’t get 100% I don’t get a donut?” OMG! This is the OPPOSITE of what I was trying to accomplish!!!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One of Those Life Lesson Moments for the Boy...and Mom...in the Freezing Night Time Rain...

It was one of those moments where we both received a life lesson in the "right thing" to do.

Kai had $8.00 in allowance money in his piggy bank and was determined Sunday to buy an action figure. I suggested to him that if he saved another week he could afford the transformer he was coveting, but he had suddenly gotten to a place where he simply had to spend his money for the sake of shopping. Not because there was something specific that he wanted, like when he saved the $55.00 to get his TIE fighter. It's what I hate about the holiday season, and it's begun. He'd been watching TV that morning and just went in to commercial overload.

Well, on with the life lesson.

He wanted to shop, I had a list of things that had to get done. We made a game plan that started with laundry, a trip to Target so he could get a Star Wars action figure, on to our storage space, then to lunch, then to the supermarket. when we got to Target they were pretty much cleaned out of anything good on the Star Wars action figure front from Black Friday weekend, but Kai was undeterred. He had $8.00 in his pocket and NEEDED to spend it. It's his money so I can only argue so far with him, but I could at least influence his shopping decisions with my opinion on his choices. I could see that he didn't really want anything especially and was caught in an obsessive consumer mindset, so at least I was able to convince him to choose the droid figure that he'd admired in the clone wars 2 weeks prior and steer him away from the one I knew would be in pieces by the end of the day. I did suggest to him that he try a Bionicle instead, but he had something in his head and that was that.

Droid purchased, we headed out to the car. As we were crossing the lot, I could see the compulsion ease up on him and he hesitated, then became upset. "Mom. You can buy me the Bionicle for Solstice, OK?" "No Kai." I said. "We can put it on your wish list, but it's your money for toys. You'll need to save your allowance to buy it. Do you want to go back in the store to exchange the action figure for the Bionicle?" At this he became upset, but chose to keep the action figure, which he seemed disappointed with (of course, because it wasn't something he specifically bought because he wanted IT, he just wanted to spend his money. It was like watching an addict crash.)

We head on with our day. It was a very cold and wet day with freezing rain on and off. Made for getting things done uncomfortable, and both of us were anxious to get through it all and back home. We finally got to the supermarket just before sunset. Kai ran up to the customer service desk and asked the manager if they had any of the "car" carts available. The store manager went out in to the rain before I could stop him, and a minute or so later came back in with the cart, got a roll of paper towels, and wiped it down for Kai. He was thrilled yelling, "Thank you!" and hopped in the front while I got through the list. Half way through shopping he found the beanie babies rack and hopped out. He spotted a Dalmatian and Scooby Doo doll and began the begging. Again, "No Kai. You don't have enough money. You bought your action figure. These cost $4 each. You will get another $4 on Friday. You can buy one then if you want to save for it." More negotiation attempts began and then he resigned himself to not getting them. I thought he'd put them back. Instead, he pulled them in the cart with him up front.

When I was done shopping we paid for the groceries and headed out to the lot. It was now night, dark, freezing, and sheets of rain were pouring down. I opened the car door and Kai held up the 2 dolls with a furtive look on his face because he knew what he'd done was wrong, but was hoping I'd let it slide.

It was then that I received my life lesson in good parenting along with his. See, from my perspective, it's only $8.00. It's freezing out. There are sheets of rain coming down. It's dark and I want to go home and make tea. But he knowingly stole the dolls. But it's only $8.00 and if I had accidentally not paid for an $8.00 item, I don't know that I'd go through the trouble of bringing it back in the cold, in the dark, in the rain...but he knowingly stole these 2 dolls. I strapped him in his car seat while I mulled this thought process through my head. How do I make my point without going back out to the store in the rain? I took the dolls from him. I told him I was disappointed and explained why. I told him this was the same as someone stealing one of his toys from our house. I told him that the people who own the store buy the things in it to sell to us so they can pay for their own groceries and toys for their kids. I told him this was a crime and we could get in trouble. I thought to myself, "But what does that mean if he doesn't actually have to take responsibility for what he's done NOW? I'm showing him that he can sneak it by, or at the worst, that he may not have gotten the dolls because I took them away, but that he still didn't have to take responsibility for the crime." I realized what the "RIGHT THING" was to do for ME.

I pulled the car up in front of the store, put my blinkers on, got him out, handed him the dolls, went back to the customer service desk, and made him give them back to the store manager who had gone out in the rain to get him the car cart and wiped it down for him and apologize. I didn't yell at him, not once. I spoke gently to him throughout. I made him take responsibility for his actions to the person he'd wronged (in his mind). He handed the dolls back and earnestly kept repeating, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" then burst in to tears.

The store manager knows us, has given him cookies in the past. He gave me a knowing look, because for a moment he didn't realize what was going on, then got it, and leaned down to Kai and said, "Next time you need to pay for these, ok?" Kai said ok, I said thank you, and we headed back out to the car.

"That didn't feel too good to have to apologize to someone you've hurt, did it?" I asked Kai. "No Mama.", he said. Then I reminded him that Darth Vader used to be Anakin and asked him why Anakin turned in to Darth Vader. Kai responded, "Because he did bad things and let the light inside him go dark." I told him how much I loved him and never wanted his light to go dark so he had to always try to do the "right thing".

Sigh. Me too.