I’m a newly converted disciple of one Vicki Hoefle, parenting guru, who created the Parenting on Track program. My neighbor (flockmother) loaned it to me, and I quickly sprang for our own copies–which I am already loaning out.
It’s a program that’s more about what YOU do than what your kids do–no starcharts or reward boxes, both of which have failed us–and one of the basic tenets is the idea of what Vicki calls “privileges and responsibilities.” Carrots and sticks would also work, but with a difference–here, it’s the KID who has to come up with the carrot. The idea is that we let our kids do things–play on the computer, go to friends’ houses, etc–before they’ve earned right to do them, and then take those things away as punishments (this is me paraphrasing and adding my own thoughts, really). Instead, we should make the kids work to take the responsibilities that go with getting to play on the computer or visit friends or whatnot.
That seemed reasonable to me. It never occurred to me that a playdate is a privilige, but of course it is–you don’t, as an adult, get asked to socialize unless you’ve achieved some reasonable standard of human decency, right? Vicki’s idea was that a kid can’t go on a playdate unless he or she can prove that he or she can play well at home, as in, without hitting siblings. But that’s not really our problem here. There’s some hitting, sure, and the word “poopyhead” flies around a lot, but it’s nothing no one can’t live with. My real problem, as I’ve said before, is the CAR.
On a typical ride in our car, Lily climbs in first. Then she locks the door and won’t let Rory or Wyatt climb over her (which they have to do to get to the way back seat). (Why not get in on the other side? sometimes they do, sometimes they’re in a parking lot, or it’s raining, and they just didn’t. Why should they have to? Why should Sam always be the one they climb over?) When I unlock the door she braces her feet in their moon boots across the aisle against the driver’s seat and begins to scream. No! No! Don’t go over me! Ow! GO OVER SAM! Ow! Wyatt hurt me! Rory poked my eye! AAAAOOOOWWW!!!AAUUGHHH OOOWWWOOOOOOO!”
Meanwhile, Wyatt has tripped over Rory. “HE HURT ME! WYATT PUSH ME!” Rory hits Wyatt with her hat. Wyatt hits her back. I turn the car on. “I’M NOT BUCKLED!!!!” Etc, etc. Once we are moving it’s more of the same. Whoever is sitting behind Lily is kicking her seat. Wyatt is pulling on Rory’s seat belt. Or poking near her, but not at her. Rory won’t let Wyatt sing his song, which she does by singing it in a different tempo or key or slightly different time than him to mess him up. Or vice versa–that’s the number one annoy someone else in the car technique at our place.
They rarely touch one another, really. They’re not actually hitting, for the most part, except with things like hat strings that they were trying to swing just close enough to swing but not strike, but failed. They stop short of doing the kinds of things that I would, in the past, send them to their rooms for. Barely. But it’s AWFUL.
And so: yesterday, my buddy Mimi and I set them up. “Would Rory and Wyatt like to ride in my car with Trevor to the pond (where we were going to skate)?” Man, would they. They LOVE to ride in Mimi’s car.
“I’m sorry,” I said in my best Vicki-voice. “I would LOVE to let you ride in Mimi’s car. But the last time I checked, you thought the right way to behave in the car was to scream and carry on and try to hit one another with your hats, and I can’t POSSIBLY let you do that in Mimi’s car.” And off we went. Oh, the gnashing of teeth and the wailing! Wyatt even said exactly what Vicki predicted: But I would NEVER do that in Trevor’s car! Prove it, kid.
I had actually announced this the day before, but it had so much more power with an actual invitation that they could not accept (the day before it was a playdate I’d had to turn down on Rory’s behalf, and same for Lily, and it just isn’t as good without an actual other person involved).
Five days of behaving in my car like you would in someone else’s, my friends. Five days. Wyatt clicked instantly. Lily and Rory both had their clocks reset yesterday. Rory pretended she didn’t understand, but she did–because the minute I said “so, would you kick the back of the seat in front of you and scream if Amika’s mom said no, you can’t have chips in my car?” She stopped.
Wyatt has until Monday. Rory and Lily: Tuesday. If this works, my life will be SO MUCH BETTER.