So it was time to think big…If you have a problem and don’t know what to do, just think THINK BIG! (oops, sorry…Pinky Dinky Doo!) I needed to come up some kind of punishment that could also be a reward and it had to be immediate and completely Mommy-controlled.
Mari lives and breathes TV. She loves it! She watches way too much but as a single mom, it’s sometimes the ONLY way I can even get a shower or potty. But now the TV has become a point of contention. She sits and watches it, toys untouched, unresponsive to my voice, totally consumed. She demands certain shows and even certain episodes. And she is not pleasant about it.
So TV is now my bargaining chip. I now have 5 smiley faces hanging directly above the TV. Anytime Mari has a breech of behavior, one of those smiley faces is replaced by a frownie face and the TV turns off. The TV remains off until all frownie faces have been changed back to smileys. Frownie faces can be given immediately for an infringement that is known rule or after some warning that she refuses to heed. Smiley faces are given for good listening, helping with chores, playing well with her toys, and (when we are stretching for any good moments) just heading to the potty without arguing.
It’s working. The first 2-3 days were really tough. She would get a frownie face for something and then pitch such a fit (throwing things at the wall, spitting, tipping furniture) that she would earn more than one frownie at a time. We went 3 days with no TV because…well, let’s just say it was a bad week! And that was hard on me as well…I was quite used to being able to cook supper or work on the laundry, etc. while she sat on the couch glued to the set. One of those first nights, she actually laid her pillow in the middle of the kitchen floor and laid there watching me work around her.
Finally, it started clicking. She was begging to earn happy faces. The mere mention of a frownie face would send her into instant obedience. As soon as she would earn her last smiley face she would jump up and down and tell me what she wanted to watch.
While her behavior has improved 180 degrees, I’ve noticed other changes in her. She no longer begs to watch TV when it’s off. She will play with her toys while it’s on and I can sneak over and turn it off without her noticing. She has suddenly become interested in watching new things. She has keyed into the emotions associated with the faces. “I’m so happy I got a smiley face.” “I’m sad cause of my frownie face.” She has become very quick to say she is sorry when she knows she has done something wrong. She is asking permission to do things that she needs help with… “Mommy, may you please help me wash my hands.” (That one earned a smiley face, hug, and a gummy!) The frownie face threat is even working when we are out of the house. On the way home from school one day, she asked about watching something, and I said that I thought she still had a frownie face up…she got really quiet and sad but then smiled and said, “I help Mommy and get a smiley face.” She did not want to go to bed one night, so I told her that she needed to go to bed or get a frownie and not be able to watch TV in the morning…she pouted and started getting her “angry eyebrows” but then smiled and headed to bed lickety-split.
So things are better, much better. I was honestly dreading the weekend because we had had such a horrible week. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and pleasant this weekend was. Mari did not earn a frownie face until around supper time on Sunday night (climbing on the kitchen counter into the sink)…I was actually going to let her get by with it if she got down immediately and apologized but she grabbed a sippy cup and threw it across the room. She pitched a fit when the TV went off and the frownie face was hung. But then she dried her tears and sat on the floor to help me fold clothes, peeking over her shoulder occasionally to glare at the frownie face. She was able to earn back her smiley face by helping with the laundry but, while she was excited about the smiley face, she did not ask to watch anything!
So my next step will be to limit the TV time. I’m going to give us another week with just having the “all smileys=TV time”. The rule will still apply that any frownie face will mean NO TV but she will have to cash in her smileys….one smiley per episode. And the smileys are going to get a little harder to earn…as she understands that good listening and obedience are expected, I will start asking her to really earn her smileys (things like cleaning up her toys, helping me do chores, etc…things she can already do!). And my last step, to try to get the emphasis off the TV, will be for her to cash in smileys for something else.
So, hopefully we will continue to have good behavior and smiles all around!
Wait....all smileys and the TV is off??
Wait....did the episode finish and Mari not notice?
Helping to fold laundry in order to earn a smiley