by guest blogger Mary Nelsen Tamborski
Every week my two young boys (4-year-old Greyson and 2-year-old Reid) and I have a routine of going to Target to pick up our weekly essentials. I learned early on not to buy a toy, even from the $1 aisle, because it created a new routine of expecting "something" every visit. Of course, the few trips after breaking this habit were not fun.
To prepare them for this new plan (take time for training) I explained that we were not going to buy any toys. Then on our way to Target I shared the list of exactly what we needed to get and asked for my oldest son, Greyson, to help me remember the items. It was my hope that asking for his help would distract him from wanting to buy a toy (providing experiences that help children feel capable).
Surprisingly it went well without a major meltdown. Greyson did seem proud of himself for helping. It might have helped that I creatively learned how to avoid the toy aisle at all costs, which is not easy!
Our weekly trips to Target are now virtually stress free-as long as I'm in and out within 30 minutes and don't go close to nap time (getting into the child's world and planning ahead).
A few weeks ago, we had an exceptionally awesome day of communication, a long nap, exercise for Mommy, and some extra fun games and activities. Greyson was being extra helpful and patient with his baby brother Reid. It warmed my heart to watch him sharing his toys with Reid. Overall, I think I can speak for all of us when I say the day was a 10 on a scale from 1-10.
We were at Target. When I least expected it, I turned the corner to a new aisle (Halloween costumes) and right there was his new favorite character of the week-Superman. It wasn't even September yet, so Halloween costumes were the last thing on my mind. When I told Greyson, "No we can't buy that costume today," he started pouting and saying, " I want to go straight home." Thankfully we were on our way to the checkout line, so I just sped up (deep down knowing it was about to get ugly)!
All the way to the checkout line I was acknowledging and validating his feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger and confusion that he couldn't get the costume today. Unfortunately, this Positive Discipline tool wasn't working.
We were standing in line when I tried complimenting him by telling him how much I enjoyed our day together, and what a great help he's been, and how much I've loved spending our time together. Then I asked him (even though I knew the answer) to describe how he was feeling and why? When he explained to me that he wanted the costume today and that he didn't want to wait to buy it I told him (kindly and firmly) that I wasn't ready to buy it yet.
Greyson's reaction was to tell me that I was a "bad mommy" and then he started pushing me.
The pressure was on! Naturally all eyes at (least it felt that way) were on me waiting to see what I was going to do next? What I think most people were expecting was for me to "flip my lid" and totally lose it by either threatening, yelling, spanking or firmly (not kindly) putting him into the cart for lock down.
Instead, I knelt down to his level and told him again how much I loved being around him and I was feeling upset for the total attitude change. I then asked him if he needed a hug. This is a Positive Discipline tool that usually always works for Greyson and me; but not this time. He said, "No I don't want a hug."
I was feeling especially desperate. I was running out of Positive Disciple tools. However, I reached into my "Positive Discipline tool belt" one last time and used compliments and sense of humor. Thank goodness, it worked! Greyson had on the conductor hat that he wears everyday. (Will this train phase ever end?) I reminded him how much I loved his fun, loving and cooperative attitude he had expressed all day, and that it all switched in "one Target turn." I told him, "I am going to pull your hat down over your face down to your chin; and when I lift it up I'm going to see a big smile, and and a happy Greyson." I put his hat over his face lifted it up and said "ta daa." Holy smokes it worked!!!!!
I was shocked! However, I learned again how important it is to get inside the child's world, validating his thoughts and feelings, and being kind and firm and even more important, respectful. I felt like I should've had a round of applause from all the nervous and anticipating parents who were watching. Gosh knows that we've all been there in the checkout line that is moving slower than it ever has, and every item in reach of eager little hands. I sometimes wonder if anyone else has caught on to how Wal-Mart and Target checkout lines are just a different form of birth control...unless you have Positive Discipline tools.
I was amazed that I was able to keep my cool for that long, but I remember hearing, "How can we expect our children to control their behavior when we don't control our own?" (Modeling.)
(You can learn more about Mary Nelsen Tamborski and get updates on her classes and workshops by visiting www.marytamborski.com.)