Monday, January 04, 2010

Good Choice/Bad Choice. . .What'll it be today, son?

Our largest post-placement struggle with our boys revolves around the issue of defiance. I wrote a post here about one episode of defiance, and listed a book that has helped Cliff and I even know where to begin when dealing with defiance.

With both sons, their "main" defiance method initially appeared as a complete refusal to answer us. We initially handled it with "Time Ins." (Which I still use on occasion.) One son actually sat at the kitchen table for nearly 3 freakin' days before willingly answering us and apologizing to their sister. He's the one who is, quite seriously, the most stubborn person Cliff and I have ever met. Our other little guy sat at the table for about 3 hours before he cracked and decided to answer us.

Since then, both boys rarely not answer us. Both willingly respond. Hooray! Victory! We're getting through to them, right?

HOWEVER, they have since employed some new tactics.

New Defiance Tactic #1: Respond in an inaudible, mumble-jumble voice. Otherwise known as "Repohn pa-jaunti" ("Answering Not Nicely." We are probably desecrating the Kreyol language, but the boys understand the phrase and concept, so we stick with it.")

One boy of ours, however, has recently added a new twist to this: made-up words in Kreyol. He'll speak audibly when we ask him, but the words are nonsense words.

When the boys choose to answer incoherently, we always explain to them that Mommy can't hear you. Please speak Nice and Loud and Clear like you do when you ask for a cookie. Because we all know how Nice and Loud and Clear that particular request is.

If they change their ways, we praise them. Great choice! Whohoo! We make a big to-do to show them how good Good choices make us feel.

If they don't, we will explain to them that the Good Choice would be to answer nicely. The Bad Choice would be to answer not nicely, because then we cannot hear them. We tell them how important they are to us, that what they say is important to us, and that we want to know their answer. At this point, we'll lay out the consequence if they chose to answer not nicely again. We then give them the chance to say it again.

New Defiance Tactic #2: Respond with the incorrect answer.
Typically, they strive to have the most Out-of-Space, Have-Nothing-to-do-with-the-Topic-at-Hand answer possible.

An example: the other morning, I had given one boy the task of cleaning up the billion Hot Wheels cars on their bedroom floor while Atticus and the other son put away the clean laundry. The child with the car chore was clearly not happy. Which is okay. You don't have to like everything.

He finished the job, and I said, "Please pick up those three stuffed animals so you can set the car box right by the end of your bed."

He picked up the stuffed animals. And then proceeded to shove the car box underneath the headboard area of Atticus' bunk bed.

Ahhhh, my dear son. "____, where did Mommy ask you to put the car box?"

Nonverbal, he pointed to Atticus' bunk bed. "No, Mommy didn't ask you to place them under Atticus' bed. Where did Mommy ask you to place them?"

He just stares at me. He knows exactly where I asked him. Instead, he now points at the top bunk on Atticus' bed. "No, I'm afraid that Mommy didn't ask you to put them there either. Mommy just had you do something, so you could put the cars in their rightful place. What did Mommy just have you do?"

"Fold laundry."
"Ahhh, no."
"Pick up the cars."
"Ahhh, no, after you cleaned up all the cars. What did Mommy have you do?"
"Brush teeth."
"Nice try."
"Eat dinner."
"Not at 9 am, sorry."

What fun, I tell you.

At this point, we began to talk about Good Choice and Bad Choice. Answering Mom with the right answer when we know it is the Good Choice. Answering Mom with a Bad Answer when we know the Right Answer is a Bad Choice.

"And what happens when you choose a Bad Choice?" I ask.
"Yes! Consequence. Mommy does not like to give out consequences, because they are NO fun. I will tell you, if you choose to make a Bad Choice and give Mommy the wrong answer, you will have no Build-A-Bear toys for the rest of the day. Now, I know that you are a wonderful and smart son. I know that you have a good heart and can make Good Choices. So tell Mommy, what did you do after you cleaned up the cars?"

"Take a bath." was the answer.

Thump. I banged my head against the wall (figuratively.)

"I'm sorry, but that was the wrong answer. Please go bring your Build-a-Bear bin to Mommy."

Once I had the Build-a-Bears, I start again. "Please make a Good Choice here. If you are going to make a bad choice, then you will not be playing in the basement the rest of the day. So tell Mommy the right answer: what did you do after you cleaned up the cars?"

Answer: "Go sleigh-ing in the snow."

Thump, Thump, Thump.

"Are you telling me that you just went outside and played in the snow, and then came back inside, got undressed, came upstairs and shoved the toy cars underneath Atticus' bed?"


"I didn't think so. I'm afraid that you will not be playing in the basement for the rest of the day."

We then got to a point where we told him that if he was going to continue to make the bad choice of telling the wrong answer or lying instead of giving the correct response, then Daddy was going to stay home with him and he was not going to go to the Pizza Party we were having at a friend's house. "So tell Mommy, what did you do after you cleaned up the cars?"

Quick, loud, articulate answer: "I moved the stuffed animals so I can put cars here." He then ran and got the cars and put them on the bed. "Can I go Pizza Party now?"

EVERY part of my being wanted to scream, No! No you can't! You are driving me bonkers here, little boy! You can't go because I'm angry and I want you to suffer through displeasure the way you are making me!

But, I didn't. Because in reality, he was told the consequence, and then given the choice of whether or not he wanted to make the Bad Choice or Good Choice. He accepted the consequence of the previous Bad Choices, and then made the Good Choice to answer appropriately so he would not have that consequence.

Instead, we gave the whole spiel about how he did the right thing by making a good choice. We went through the situation again, reiterating his bad choices and subsequent consequences, and then we highlighted his Good Choice. And didn't his Good Choice make him proud and make him feel good?

Of course, we then felt good because we got through, and that's a success.

But of course, we went through the whole she-bang the next day with something else.

So I'm not quite sure if the defiant behaviors are escalating, or evolving? My gut tells me that they're not escalating, because they seem to drop that behavior once they realize it won't work. But I think they're evolving in the fact that they are still in the "Testing" phase, and they need to find new ways to test us.

The whole Good Choice/Bad Choice/Testing thing is exhausting. EXHAUSTING. Truthfully, I never in a thousand years thought it would be this exhausting. But it is.

If it sounds like I'm making light of a situation, or am 'labeling' my sons negatively by calling them little boogers, please know that I'm not. I find it helpful to keep a sense of humor in these situations, because otherwise I would be bogged down by this exhaustion.

And besides, I would never call them boogers to their faces.

Because I love these little boogers. And Lord help me, I am their Mother and I need a whole lotta divine assistance and intervention. Because somedays.

Which is why I bang my head only figuratively. Because otherwise, I'd probably have a permanent concussion by now.


Corey said...

Sarah.. so sorry to hear that you're getting the double whammy!

You have my sympathies.. it certainly is exhausting..keep blogging it, if only to let that frustration out.


Amy said...

Oh, how I "get it". J does pretty well, thank God, but there are those moments.

small town girl said...

Thank you for your sense of humor!!! I'm feeling pretty humorless lately, and I can relate to the exhaustion. It's a full time job. Which is a problem when you already have a full time job...

Stephanie said...

I really appreciate these posts to help me prepare for what's ahead. A friend of mine sent me some bubble wrap to put around my head when I need a good head banging!

Jenn said...

Are we living the same life? I am continually amazed how defiant my three year old monster can be. I thought already having 4 kids under my belt I would be prepared...guess I was wrong!

I just started blogging again and will be talking about our latest issues soon!

Maggie Mae said...

We are totally going through that right now! Our little booger has caused many figurative holes in the wall from our figurative head thumps too :) I did notice how well she got along with Miles and Keenen as of late, so maybe the three of them are plotting against us all...hmmm. By the way, any pointers for getting over the habit of the finger up the nose? (By the way, I'm still referencing Aristana here :) If not, we'll need to invest in a chisel to clean the wall by her bed. At least she's not eating them. Argh! With that being said, I may be induced today... here we go again! Love you guys!