Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sticker Shock

We're definitely in the throes of "terrible."

Every day holds a constant barrage of "No!", "ppphhhhttttt" (complete with stuck-out tongues and sprays of saliva) and my personal favorite "why? why? why?" Shirt collars serve a whole new function: hand holds in lieu of actual neck scruffs. Even more telling, the boys are starting to lie. White lies, but lies none the less. Witness the exchange Zach and I had the other morning:

Z: "Mama, I want to watch a movie"
Me: "We don't watch movies on school days"
Z: "I don't want to go to school today"
Me: "You have to"
Z: "My head hurts. I'm sick. I can't go to school." Pause for a beat. "Now can I watch a movie?"

Some days it seems hubby and I spend half of our waking hours screaming. And some days - especially Monday mornings - the apartment feels like we're on the despot side of a police state. With some very, very annoying would-be rebels in our midst. It's brutal.

So we've decided to try a new tactic: incentives. And, so far, it appears to be working.

We're employing the popular tactic of "sticker boards." There are several categories of "good behaviors" (stay quietly in bed until 6:30, sit properly through dinner, etc.) Successful completion means the worthy child can choose from "special" stickers (a.ka., Disney, Pixar, Dora, Thomas) to put on his "board" (a.k.a., a large sheet of paper hanging on the wall).

Here's what we didn't anticipate (and should have) : sticker incentives are SO exciting, the boys are now scheming to earn more. Poor Zach sat on the portable toddler potty for a good fifteen minutes this morning, trying to squeeze out at least one tiny drop of pee (pee pee in the potty = 1 sticker. Poopy in the potty =2). And why? So he could get his hands on a sparkling Lightening McQueen. Poor kid hadn't drunk enough milk though.

A few moments later, I caught Jake dumping a box of Lincoln Logs on the living room rug, just so he could clean them up (clean up = 1 sticker). Needless to say, he didn't get any rewards for that maneuver.

In fact, the whole thing is working so well that the temptation is to start using the stickers for EVERYTHING. Eat your vegetables. Don't complain about getting a shampoo. Hold mommy's hand crossing the street. But I fear overuse. And I fear every moment becoming a negotiation.

Of course, that said, most moments feel like negotiations now.
"If you want to cookie then finish your peas."
"No TV until after bath."
"Pick up your toys if you want mommy to read a story."
... and so on.

Maybe, the bigger concern is, how long until it gets old, until the luster of tacky-backed animated characters has dimmed? Can I trust the Pixar film slate to keep up with my needs, providing me with enough fresh, shiny new characters to maintain the requisite level of excitement? After all, one needs heavy artillery for behavior modification. And potty training. And I don't want to have to escalate to *real* rewards, like money. Or chocolate. Stickers seem a reasonable currency.

I suppose, like everything about parenting (especially of toddlers, especially of boys, especially of toddler twin boys) it's about moderation. Deploy tactics wisely, sparingly. Remember that relative infrequency is what makes a treat a treat.

And trust that Disney will always know how to make a dime.

1 comment:

Angie said...

No shame in this! I bribed the Bug to eat her peas the other night. With ketchup. "Yes, you can have another handful of ketchup *IF* you eat a handful of peas." It was indescribably disgusting... But she did eat all her peas.