As you may recall, I created a Cooperation Chart for Sammy a few weeks ago. We only used it regularly for about 10 days. It really worked! It broke our mutual bad behavior pattern and gave us some structure for discussing the problems.
We’ve identified some specific problems that had cropped up back then. Sammy was, indeed, missing her daddy. The problem, though, was that she didn’t know how to express it and to deal with it. Her disappointment and sadness came out as anger, so that in the mornings when Adam would be getting ready to leave she wouldn’t talk to him except to yell at him and even say, YOU GET OUT OF HERE NOW. GO TO WORK NOW, DADDY! She would not kiss him goodbye, and sometimes she would even be mad when he got home in the evenings.
After we got a little bit of control using the Cooperation Chart, we were able to talk to her about it. She could keep herself calm enough to listen just a little bit each day, and after a week or two of continuous discussions about why daddy goes to work, how we all miss each other, and what we can do to feel better about it, she got it! I also used the trick of giving her a little object from Adam’s desk to keep in her pocket all day at school. She liked that, but I don’t think it helped for more than a day or two. I think it was the persistence with which we kept explaining and explaining, in a gentle and understanding way, that got through to her. She still gets a little bit angry on Mondays, after Adam has been home all weekend, but she’s getting used to the idea that her anger doesn’t solve anything (a very important lesson!).
The hitting and really heinous screaming and yelling stopped immediately with the Cooperation Chart. I’m not sure why, but I do know that she feels terrible when she loses control like that, and maybe seeing something concrete at the end of the day was enough for her to put more effort into controlling herself.
I don’t think the Cooperation Chart has helped with the potty training in any real way. Since we’re not using the whiteboard anymore, I might turn it into a new reward system for using the potty and see if it helps. The candy helped for about a week, but she is back to pooping in her pants again.
The delaying is still a problem. When I say that it’s time to get dressed or eat dinner or whatever, Sammy seems not to listen. When she does react to my calls to action, much of the time she yells DON’T TALK, MOMMY! or BE QUIET, MOMMY! I had suspected that she was reacting to being ordered around, so I started putting extra effort into finding alternate ways to get her cooperation. It has helped quite a bit, so I think I’m on the right track. Here are some things I’ve been doing:
- I use timers whenever possible. When the timer tells Sammy that she needs to get dressed for school, she understands that it’s not an arbitrary decree from Mommy. For a while, she would scream and yell whenever I’d set a timer, but she got used to it.
- I use questions as much as possible. We are just now teaching Sammy to ask us things instead of giving orders. We probably should have started this a long time ago, but when your child first starts speaking in sentences, you don’t want to correct a minor issue like using a question instead of a demand. But we let that stage go on too long. So now I’m constantly telling Sammy to use a question, and at the same time, I’m telling her what to do. This makes her mad, and rightfully so! When I realized this, I asked her if this was what made her mad and she said YES, so I told her that I would try to use my questions, too. So, whenever possible, I find a way to ask a question. I can’t very well say, “Do you want to go to bed now?” because if she says NO then I’m stuck, so I have to be creative. This almost always leads to the next technique:
- I give choices. This is the most useful tool I have right now, and I’m working on finding creative ways to give choices for just about everything. “Are you ready to put your shoes on now or would you like to draw for one more minute?” “Would you like the pink coat or the blue sweater today?” “Would you like to finish breakfast now and pick out your clothes or should I go get them while you keep eating?” It sounds crazy, but sometimes just asking her, “Do you want to go up the stairs ahead of me or behind me?” is all she needs to get moving. Sometimes it’s hard to find a way to ask a question/offer a choice. What do I do when she’s standing outside the car with the door open and the rain pouring down on us, just looking at a cloud, while I wait for her to get in? And that leads to the final technique:
- I try to allow for slow reaction-time, and to have patience. I’ve found that, a lot of times, just waiting a few seconds in a situation like that is enough. She knows it’s time to get in the car. If I say anything at all, she gets mad. Sometimes, if it goes on too long I’ll say something like, “I’m getting wet,” and that does the trick. But sometimes it takes a good 3 seconds or so for those words to sink in. 3 seconds is a long time when you’re getting soaked. I used to demand an immediate reaction, but I’m learning to give it just a little bit more time, and that is helping a lot.
Because of this challenge with her anger and defiance, I’ve put off teaching Sammy any new skills. She’s still struggling with the potty, too, so I didn’t want to add more conflict to the mix. But now I finally feel comfortable enough to begin our next adventure: teaching Sammy to dress herself!