Last Monday I had a Momma-Win day and ohhhhhh it felt so good! I was basking in the glow for the rest of the week. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to keep my head above water that I forget about some of the great strategies I used with Zip when he was younger, to motivate him to listen. But on this particular day I remembered, and it made all the difference.
It was the last day of Zip’s school vacation and both boys had very specific ideas about how the day should be spent. Zip wanted to go to the library to check out books about fossils. Bee was begging to go bowling. Neither the library nor the bowling alley opened until 10:00 am, but I told the boys we’d do both before lunch. This felt like an ambitious plan, for sure, and had the makings of a very stressful morning.
Right before we left the house I reviewed the rules – something I should do more often but usually forget because I’m too busy rushing around. Stay together. Walk, don’t run. Inside voices. Listen. And the biggie: No teasing each other. Now, repeat the back to me – what are the rules?
Then I had a sudden burst of inspiration and run upstairs to grab a fistful of Silly Bandz® from my jewelry box. (Okay, fashion police, slow down! The little rubber bracelets are not for me to wear!) I’ve never bought a Silly Band in my life, but Zip somehow amassed a collection when he was in preschool and we used to use them as a behavior tool – which is what I had suddenly remembered. I gave each of the boys 3 bracelets to wear and explained that they would each get 3 chances with their behavior. Each time we had a problem, I would take a band, and if they lost all 3 bracelets, we would leave wherever we were and come straight home.
Zip, ever the thinker:”What if only one of us loses all three?”
Ah, but I was on my game: “Then we have to come home. So you need to really help each other follow the rules and get along.”
The great thing about this strategy is that it makes the expectations and the warnings very concrete. The boys know, by virtue of how many bracelets they have left, how close they are to a consequence and they know what the consequence will be. And I think wearing the bracelets also serves as a general reminder that there are expectations in place. In this case, both of them were really motivated to make sure they didn’t have to come home instead of bowl and get books.
They were SO good! Well, Bee still had his moments, as preschoolers are want to do, but Zip was so calm and so cooperative and so helpful. And, best of all, the boys didn’t argue with each other at all! In fact, Zip went out of his way to be helpful to his little brother. From time to time I had to give a reminder: I hope you boys are still getting along, or I thought we were supposed to be staying together, but that’s all it took and they were right back on track. I didn’t need to take a single bracelet!
It was such a relaxing day for me. Instead of constantly “managing” their behavior (which is what often happens when I’m out with two very rambunctious kids), I got to sit back and just enjoy them. We bowled, checked out 17 library books (because I can’t say no to requests for “one more book”), and even went out for a slice of pizza before heading home for naps. By the time we reached the pizza joint, I let them know that if they still had all 3 bracelets when we got home, they could have a piece of Easter candy to celebrate.
As Zip and I snuggled up later to read stories, I let him know how proud I was of his choices. “I had so much fun today, buddy. You and Bee really tried to follow the rules and be nice to each other, and we all got along so well. Did you notice I didn’t even yell the whole day?!” I hope that more than learning to avoid negative consequences, the boys realize that family life is just plain happier when we help each other out and get along. And those rubber bracelets are going back into regular rotation in our house. I’ve already stuffed a few in my purse, so I have them in a pinch!
If you don’t have Silly Bandz around, no worries! Any object can do. Give your child three pennies to keep in her pocket, or 3 stickers on his shirt. One time we turned a purple marker into a behavior-saver!
Like Musing Momma on Facebook. Or subscribe. Or both.