Do not let their quiet demeanor or sweet smiles fool you.
They are spoiled rotten.
And yes, I know its my fault.
I am a giver by nature and I love for my kids to be happy. If its at all possible, I give them what they ask for. This is not where the problem lies, however.
At some point, my children forgot their manners. They forgot to ask for things in a nice polite voice. They now demand and order me around like their servant. "Get me juice, mom!" is how Jayce asked for his drink this morning. Jaina, who has grown ever so more lazy each passing month will plead, "I'm thirsty! I can't reach my cup that's on the coffee table. Can you get it for me?"
So I look at my son and say, "Jayce, you need to ask me nicely for juice." He responds by yelling, "I SAID PLEASE! GO GET IT!"
Um, no. Not acceptable in any form other than "Mommy, may I have juice please?"
Which I then model for him. And he repeats... in a very annoyed tone. Sigh. Its a start.
Then there's Jaina and the word "No." I think that word somehow escaped her current vocabulary. Oh, now she knows how to tell me "no" alright, but she doesn't take "no" for an answer if it comes from my mouth.
"Mom, I'm hungry. What can I eat for a snack?"
This is while I'm obviously standing in the kitchen by the stove actually cooking the dinner that will be ready in 10 minutes.
"Nothing. Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes. You can wait."
"I can't! I'm starving and I don't like what you are cooking. I'm going to get chips out of the pantry."
"No, you aren't Jaina."
"But why can't I have chips?"
I have to bite my tongue not to snap back, "Because I said so!" which is what I want to say, but that's not the only reason I won't let her eat chips at 6:50 PM.
I usually end up having to tell Jaina "No" about 3 or 4 times before she believes me. Now, I know some of this is her age. And some of it is her personality. I certainly don't like to be told "No" either, and if someone tells me "no", I usually go above that person to see what that policy is in place to begin with.
(Yes, I was a difficult stubborn child as well for my mom!)
But I think what Jaina is having a hard time understanding is that I am the final say. There is no one she can go appeal to if she doesn't like my verdict. I'm mom and I'm the boss.
This is a huge concept we've been working with Jayce on. Because of his autism, he has a hard time reading social cues and relationships. His sister, his friend, his teacher, me, Grandma... we're all the same to him. We're all on the same authority level. And naturally, he doesn't like listening to any of us!
Its time to get back to basics in our house. I realized that we no longer have house hold rules posted up in the kitchen. Thanks to one of the therapist's suggestion, we will have new rules to post.
1. Control your body
2. Control your voice
3. Follow directions
With rules come consequences. I personally like natural consequences. Let the punishment fit the crime, in other words. (However, I do not advocate retribution. I will not let Jaina smack Jayce if he just hit her 5 seconds prior. That doesn't teach anyone that physical violence is wrong.)
Some examples of natural consequences:
If ice cream is left on a counter, it melts. When children refuse to eat, they become hungry. If people stay awake too late at night, they will be tired the next day. When a child loses a baseball glove, she will not have a mitt for the next game. If, despite warnings from the lifeguard, a child runs beside the pool, he may fall and skin his knees. When children forget to take their lunch money to school, they will have nothing to eat.
A good example of this in our house would be "taking responsibility for your clothes." For some reason, my kids never believe me when they want to go play outside in 40 degree weather and I ask them to put on a jacket. Now, I never tell them to put on a jacket, I merely give them the suggestion. They can be responsible for that themselves. And when the come back into the house 5 minutes later to retrieve their jackets, I don't have to say a word. Lesson learned.
But I find that its hard to think of natural consequences for all misbehavior. Sometimes I do need to contrive parent-imposed consequences like Time-Out or loss of a privilege. Those two consequences work great for Jaina... but not so well for Jayce. Disciplining a child with autism can be a whole different game. Not just a game, an entirely different ballpark!
Its not that I've been a permissive parent for the past 8 years or anything like that, but I do find that I get caught up in day-to-day stuff and sometimes take the easier way out with the kids. Its much easier to give into their demands if it makes them hush for 10 seconds. Disciplining is a lot of work, and well... you have to be a disciplined parent if you are going to guide your kids the same way. Its exhausting, I tell ya.
So, this Behavior Bootcamp is not just for the kids. Its for me, most of all. Its to remind myself of my expectations for my kids. Its to remind myself that I need to be a good model for the behavior I expect. Its to make sure everyone in the house is on the same page with rules and consequences. And its about treating each other with the respect we all deserve.
Wish me luck! Or else its going to be a loooong summer....