"Put his toys in toy jail."
"Make a sticker chart."
"Bribe him with candy. Or a new toy."
"Take away his favorite movie. Or his bedtime
Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to disciplining your child/encouraging them to behave well. But my dilemma with Mo, almost 4, is that he's hard to motivate. I could take away every dump truck and Matchbox car, or even his big boy bike with the training wheels, and the impact would be minimal at best.
It might, and I say might, sting for a second. But then he's on to the next thing. He doesn't have a favorite blanket, stuffed animal or toy. Once he played with a box of diapers for 45 minutes, stacking and restacking them. He loves playing with the cans of black beans in the pantry. If I take away his bike, he tells me he doesn't mind walking or riding in the wagon.
Same way with treats. Trust me, he definitely has a sweet tooth - but he also has a good memory and a surprisingly broad perspective. For example, I used to offer fruit snacks as his Grade A treat for good behavior. He reminded me that they get fruit snacks all the time at day care. When I tried it with candy, he retorted that his aunt (my sister) gives him candy every time she sees him. (Thanks, Sis.)
We've had some success with time-outs for punishing bad behavior - like hitting, saying bad words and general naughtiness. The one caveat is that he's gotten good about coordinating his time-outs with clean-up time or bedtime, and I suspect he does it on purpose so he can delay the inevitable.
So I just started something new to encourage good behavior: I'm giving him an allowance. Sound crazy? Maybe it is. He's not even 4. But a friend just started giving her 4-year-old an allowance; she and her siblings always had an allowance and they all turned into very good money managers. So she inspired me.
For 2 bucks a week, Mo has to:
Buckle his own car seatGet dressed by himselfHelp pick up his toys
Each time he refuses, I knock off a quarter. Week one he earned $1.25, which I thought was pretty good - just three quarters off. He used his special funds to buy a bag of popcorn and pink bouncy ball. And he donated the remaining quarter to the Ronald McDonald House (Can you see me beaming with pride?).
We'll see how week two ends up. I'm hoping that cold hard cash -- and the freedom that comes with it - will finally motivate Mr. Mo. I guess we'll find out.
Brooke Miller Hall makes her home in Madison with her husband and two sons.