Much as you all love to hear stories about my adorable
children, I’m sorry to tell you that sometimes they are impossibly unpleasant
little hellions.  They fuss and fight and
argue and harass and poke and provoke and generally make each other, and
therefore their mother, quite miserable. 
So, a few weeks ago, I imposed Behavior Management on them.

It works like this: I have a stash of red and blue poker
chips.  At any time that I see a child of
mine behaving in a pro-social manner, I can, at my discretion, give them a
chip.  Little Bit gets red ones, and
Tigger gets blue ones.  Chip-earning
behavior includes playing nicely with one’s sister, sharing with one’s sister, not
picking fights with one’s sister, and refusing to take the bait when one’s
sister tries to pick a fight.  They are
not allowed to ask for or demand chips. 
I dole them out as I see fit. 
When BOTH children have 25 chips, we go out for ice cream.

The change in our lives since we began this program has been
immense.  I have sweet adorable children
again.  They get along for hours at a
time, and when they slip into fussing at each other it only takes a reminder
about chips to chill them out.  A few
days ago we had our first earned ice cream outing.  Tigger got tangerine sherbet.  Little Bit chose cotton candy flavored ice
cream, with chocolate AND rainbow sprinkles. 
Earned ice cream tastes even better than regular ice cream.

I’ll take my Mother of the Year award now, thank you.

While the kids slurped the ice cream, a shirtless young man
came into the shop wearing his pants belted at low-hip level, with a good six
inches of his boxer shorts showing above them. 
He looked to me like he was in his late teens, but he may have been late
twenties for all I know.  I’m not so good
with ages these days.

Speaking of which, have you seen the new Superman, Brandon

Whose idea was this?  Shouldn’t Superman be played by a
grown-up?  This boy barely looks old
enough to rescue Lois Lane
from a boring school dance. 

Anyway, I pointed low-pants guy out to Tigger and told her
“never date a boy who wears his pants halfway down his legs.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Bad genetic material.”

When we left, however, we saw him outside the shop, sitting
on a plastic chair on the sidewalk with a teen-aged or possibly 25-year-old
girl on his lap.  I guess she didn’t
listen to her mother.

Now that it’s summer, we’re playing California rock while we zoom from place to
place in the minivan.  Lately it’s been The Eagles Greatest Hits, especially Take It Easy.  My five-year-old loves this song so much she
declared on a recent hot, sweaty, cranky afternoon, “if anyone feels sad, they
only need a drink of water and this music and they will be smiling.”  Words to live by.


30 thoughts on “

  1. I’m confused… your nephew is Chip. How does… what is he… Who can…?Personally, about an inch and a half of boxers showing, uhhh, ummm… ps.  Ohhhh. And thank you for knowing that there is no extra “r” in sherbet! That makes me love you so!

  2. My mother tried the behavior management tactic once…with little +  (10 cents) and – (minus 5 cents) signs on a sheet of paper on the fridge.  Worked okay until I figured out that turning a – sign into a + sign got me more money than just adding + signs at the end of the long row of – signs…
    Why isn’t there a “cent” sign on the keyboard?

  3. Tigger and Little Bit both deserve bonus chips for spending six hours at the Detroit airport.    An extra helping of gormet bear chow ice cream for Barn as well.

  4. Brilliant parenting! I will warn you, however. In order to keep them motivated as they get older, trips for ice cream will, by necessity, become cars, laptop computers, and college tutition.

  5. When I was little, my brother, my mom and I all rocked out to the Scorpions (Rockin’ Like a Hurricane) and Aerosmith.  We cranked it up in the conversion van and sang out loud.  It was great.  I miss being a kid. 

  6. Your girls are so cool. 🙂
    And you ARE brilliant, with your chip system.  One day, “when I get organized” (just like the chore chart), I have got to do something about the competition/picking/fighting/arguing, and in the case of the little girls, screaming bloody murder.  You can imagine the number of fighting combination/ possibilities with 4 kids. . .Wait till Luke joins the crazyness. =/

  7. We have a three-strike method.  Misbehavior results in a strike.  Three strikes and TV is canceled for the evening.  We almost never make it to three.
    Coincidentally, Chip got me an Eagles CD set for Father’s Day.

  8. Great parenting…..I’ll try it with the 4year old twin niece and nephew.
    RYC:  Moved in with my sister and her family.  They converted the 2 car garage into a quaint suite…has its own entrance , shower etc.  My son is in there now and I’m in the middle bedroom.  Huge house.  Once he’s off to the dorms….I get the suite.
    It’s actually working out….my sister’s Asst. Pr at a high school, brother-n-law is a cop, and he investigates homocide cases….there’s an almost 8 year old niece…that’s going on 13 and the twin boy and girl and about every animal you can think of.  Cats, dogs, Caws, turtles, fish, 20-30 birds in the screened in porch leading into the pool area, gerbil, lizard and the mother-n-law that visits now and again.  It’s a zoo….I’ll not have the ’empty nest’ syndrome….OH NO not I.

  9. ryc: Each and every last living human being? Impressive. Next time he calls I’ll tell him Jodi says he’s a lying rat bastard and not in Seattle. Even though he’s from Ithaca like me.Except I’m not from Ithaca. Nor do I live in Ithaca, I’m actually in one of the outlying towns.Perhaps that’s his game.Tricky, tricky Ambrose…bastard.

  10. I wonder if your chip idea would work with my girls, though being in their 20’s, I’d have to buy them drinks or something, instead of ice cream.
    re: the new Superman.  He’s from around this area.  Rumor has it (according to my girls and their friends) that his “package” had to be airbrushed so as not to appear too… super.  No idea if it’s true, but it’s a fun rumor.

  11. Brandon is 28 years old…as old as Reeve was when he did the first film. Bribery is an interesting system but if it works and is effective then you got a winning plan there and a way for them to grow into real money and managing it…

  12. I was going to say, I think he was probably around the age of Christopher Reeve first time around! Only then, we were like 12, so Christopher Reeve seemed old 🙂 We use a poker chip system, too. Although yours seems simpler than mine – I can *take away* chips, which makes things complicated. And I like that they BOTH need to get a certain number before any treats – promotes teamwork. yay for ice cream and the Eagles!

  13. Re Leonidas: there is a huge, important distinction between reward and bribery. The direction of control is opposite from one to the other. Using the reward model, the behavior must precede the payoff and the payoff is intermittent. The rewardeee acquires the habit of the desirable behavior by learning that the reward will frequently come, and most importantly, that it will ONLY come AFTER the desired behavior is exhibited. Bribery is prepayment, and the bribee learns that not only can he can always demand the bribe before the desired behavior, but that that even if he does not fully perform, the bribe will generally not be revoked and will still be available another time. In the latter case, the roles are really completely reversed: the payment of the bribe is the PARENT’S new learned behavior and the reward is the CHILDS’S originally desired behavior.

  14. I am putting together a petition that will allow both IA and IL to put up signs at our borders which read. “ANYONE WEARING PANTS BELOW THEIR WAISTLINES ARE FORBIDDEN TO ENTER. ANYONE CAUGHT WEARING SUCH PANTS WILL BE FORCIBLY RESTRAINED AND HAVE THEIR PANTS PULLED UP TO A DECENT LEVEL BY SEVERAL OCTOGENERIAN WOMEN WEIGHTLIFTERS. If that doesn’t work, then we will start a campaign in which everyone one sane (people who wear their pants where they belong) are given the right to tell these kids, “Pull your pants up, you look like a goddamn retard!”
    Can you tell I totally hate that baggy pants crap?

  15. I was hoping the pants around the knees would go out of style very soon, but it has hung around, at least for thuggy boys. I hate it, good advice mom, and the chips thing was a great idea.

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