Sunday, November 6, 2011

Give Him a Job

Lately, Ari and I have been engaged in a full on power struggle. It's like he's 16 instead of three. If he doesn't get what he wants, he does one of the following things:
  • Screams and/or writhes on the floor
  • Runs into his room and slams the door.
  • Repeats what he wants in various different ways, using a variety of sentence structures, sometimes even pantomiming what it is that he wants.
We've been butting heads, and by the end of the day, we're both exhausted from arguing.

I've been talking to anyone who will listen about his behavior (and mine for that matter) to get insight, and advice. And I've gotten some really good advice about it.

One friend of mine, Danyel, said:
"Telling him 'no' and 'don't do that' over and over again is going to make him want to do whatever he's doing more. Let him fall on his face, so to speak. He needs to learn through experience. I know, I grew up with four brothers."
Let me be clear, she didn't mean "don't tell him 'no' at all." There are many circumstances in which children need to be told no, especially if they are doing something that is dangerous to themselves or others. She meant that there are some times when kids need to learn through experience.

Then it dawned on me, part of this is a discipline issue, but part of the reason he's acting out is that he's bored. I've noticed that he acts out when there is nothing particularly exciting happening in the house. He does something mischievous when I am occupied, nursing, changing Samara, cooking dinner or going to the bathroom.

And then I remembered a trick I used to use in subbing. When there was a particularly high energy kid, a kid who happened to get bored easily, but was very bright, often times (I'm not making a gender generalization however) this child tended to be a boy, I would make the kid in question my right hand man. I would give him a job. It made him feel very important. Let's pretend this child's name was Mark.
"Mark, can you stack those chairs for me? That's great! Thanks. Mark, can you help me pass out these crayons? Awesome!"

I realized that it was about time that Ari became my right hand man. He needed structure, fast.
I was making pancakes yesterday.

Ari said:

"I want to help you." I thought, great! Here's my chance.
"Okay, can you put the flour in the bowl?"
"Sure!" He exclaimed with glee.
"Can you pour the milk in the bowl too?"
"Yes!" He exclaimed.
Normally, while I was making pancakes, Ari would be in the other room, potentially destroying something. But that day, he really did help me.

I'm going to continue giving him jobs. It seems to be helping.

How about you? Do you give your kids jobs?


  1. Yes! I've started letting Theo help me do all kinds of things like break eggs into the frying pan, "make" coffee (as you know!!), sweep, wash dishes, wipe the floor, fold laundry, clean the toilet etc... Obviously he's not really very helpful but now I see it as an activity for HIM not help for me and it really makes him so happy. YAY for extra help!

  2. Yep. I agree that a bored kid is a mischeivious, disobedient kid. I'm trying to put my control freak ways to rest and let Lilah do more in the kitchen and around the house. Sure, I'll probably have to go back and do it again, but at least I won't be retrieving an entire roll of toilet paper from the inside of the toilet! ;)

    The other thing you were doing (maybe without even knowing it) by getting the high-energy kid in your class to stack chairs was getting him to do "heavy work." Occupational therapists swear by this for kids who have sensory needs, but also for those who don't - it calms kids who have excessive amounts of energy AND gets the low-energy kid going. So any time you can get a kid to push a chair across the room, or carry a box or bag, not only are they "helping," but their sensory system is also getting organized. It's amazing how calming it can be!

  3. Harriet- That is awesome! And it's great that he FEELS like he is helping. He can seriously "make me coffee" any time.

    Amanda- I had no idea about the "heavy work." That is so interesting! And it makes so much sense! Thank you for that! I'm going to use that for low-energy kids now too!


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