Dealing with the insults and bad behaviour with a behaviour contract
For the last few weeks my boy has been going through a bit of a bad behaviour patch. We've had lots of insults and angry words, upset dinners and loud refusals, and I've been told more times than I can count that I'm the *worst* mother in the whole world.
Things came to a head when I received this note:
I'd better get some ideas about dealing with this , I thought to myself.
The things I've always done up until now when dealing with tantrums or their offshoots such as rudeness or refusals are these:
- remain really calm and not get personally upset. It never helps to take it personally.
- try to head off escalating problems by injecting humour. (It sometimes works, not always).
- hold my ground, not give in, and definitely stop talking.
- remove him after due warnings and requests for him to go himself (lifting and pulling if necessary)
- show that I'm hurt if I am - but with words and sad faces - not yelling or screaming.
None of these were having much effect though. I did have a small win using logic when he accosted me in the shower and said this:
Him: You've got the choice of your life to make.
Me: Oh, what's that?
Him: Stop doling out punishments or you'll die.
Me: Oh. That sounds bad. So.... who's actually going to kill me. Will it be you?
Him: Ummm, I'll hire an axman.
Me: Ouch. But, how are you going to pay for that? Have you got enough money?
I escaped with my life, thankfully. And I won't be giving out any pocket money... But back to the problem.
He seemed to be really upset about restrictions on computer and TV time, as well as not wanting to do any jobs like set the table. Every time he was asked to do something he refused loudly and went back to blaming me for 'giving out punishments'.
I just didn't know what to do. I was threatening, witholding privileges and admonishing, but it wasn't helping. I was really at an end of my rope, when something I read on facebook from this website, Celebrate Calm, struck a chord. I was challenged to really connect with him and teach him how to behave better rather than just expecting it to happen and hurting him when it didn't.
So the next morning I got up early and went up to his room before he woke up. He's often happier in the morning and I thought this was my best chance to connect. I used Papa Smurf, who is worth the $15 that Grandma paid for him two years ago. I did Papa's growly voice and he talked right to Papa. We had a lovely chat for about ten minutes and I was able to bring up that Papa finds it hard when his 99 children are rude to him, and he wants to help them. He got up in a good mood and very happy with me. Voila! Connection.
Part Two was to teach. So when he was ready for school and feeling calm, I sat down on the sofa with him.
Me: I'd like to talk about this afternoon. What are the things you'd like to do this afternoon?
Him: Computer time. Playing.
Me: Okay great. I'll write them down. Also, what would you like for dinner?
Me: Are you sure? You won't complain?
Him: No. Pizza. That's what I want.
Me: Okay. There are also some things I'd like you to do. I'd like you to stop your computer time when I ask you, without complaining.
Him: I can do that.
Me: And what about setting the table? What job would you like to do?
Him: The jug. That's my job.
Me: Okay. I'll write that down too.
We reviewed it together and decided we both were agreed.
Me: I won't ask you to do anything else. Just what's on this list. BUT, I want something from you.
Me: I'd like you to not be rude to me. I don't want any insults.
Him: Yes, yes, I can.
Me: But what happens if you do?
Him: I can.... lose my computer time for a week?
Me: That's probably too much. What about this... I'll count insults and when you get to 5, you go somewhere to calm down for 15 minutes. Would that work?
Him: Yes, okay.
Me: Which room do you choose to go to?
Him: Mine. That's where my books are.
Me: Okay. And if you come back and you're rude again, and you still can't calm down, maybe you'll lose an ipod time . Is that fair?
Him: Yes, yes, yes.
So we both signed it, with a giggle that both our initials were the same and I put our 'contract' on the fridge.
When I picked him up from school I showed him the contract and said, "So, do you agree?" He nodded vigorously and we had the first easy afternoon in weeks. The next morning I showed it to him again and asked if he still agreed to it. He did. And it's been a lot better since. I think I will probably make a different contract for weekends in the future, but for the moment, the connection and the teaching and the participation seems to have made a huge difference.