Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What my Daughter Remembered from her Birthday Party

It isn't always the big, fancy, expensive gifts that impress our children the most, like we often think they will.

This past Saturday, just one day after my daughter's 5th birthday party, my step mom--who couldn't be at her party--asked her what she had gotten for her birthday. Her response: "A cake, balloons, and decorations."

Not a new bike.
Not cute outfits.
Not new shoes.
Not a baton.
Not a new Cat in the Hat book, coloring books, or crayons.

It was the cake, balloons, and decorations that she remembered.

My step mom, knowing from what I had told her on the phone that we had given her a new bike, then asked her, "Didn't you get something you could ride on?"

My daughter's reply: "No'p."

I laughed, thinking she was kidding around and said, "What!? Yes you did. What did daddy roll into the living room?" She looked thoughtful for a minute, then said, "I don't know."

So I asked, "What did daddy give you the horn for?" She thought about it and still didn't know. So then I asked, "What did we put you on top of so you could ride it?" The right answer then came, though still with hesitation, and not with much enthusiasm, only a little smile: "A bike!"

Then when I asked her about her other gifts, she couldn't tell me about those either, but said the name of her younger cousin, whom she loves and was able to play with that night.

I admit to being quite bewildered at how much I had to prompt her to get her to talk about not only the bike, but her other gifts as well. Not that she didn't appreciate them. Every time she sees her bike outside now, she gets excited and wants to ride it, and she is enjoying her other gifts as well. But it obviously isn't what made the most impression on her at her birthday party.

Instead, it was the cake, the balloons, and the decorations. And playing with her cousin.

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Little "Magic Word" Monster

Child: "I want more milk."
Parent:(Long pause)"What's the magic word?"

I have a theory about teaching my daughter to "say the magic word." Not that I shouldn't have taught her to use manners. Rather, it is the manner in which I taught her that I believe inadvertently created a little "Magic Word Monster."

She has now taken the Magic Word to a new level.

At the store:
My daughter: "Can I get this?"
Me: "No, sweetie."
Her (in the sweetest voice possible, with HUGE puppy dog eyes and a teethy smile): "Pleeeeeease."
Me (Loving but firm voice): "No, darlin. You already have one like that at home and you don't even play with it."
Her: "PLEASE, Mama? PLEEEEEEEEASE? I said, Please."

She said the Magic Word, after all.

It occurred to me that it was a learned behavior, and that I, yes I, was her teacher.

I mean, from the time she could ask for things with words, I began to require her to use the word, "Please" before she could get what she was asking for. I think it was mainly that "pause" between her asking and her getting, really. She would ask for something, I would pause and not give it to her... UNTIL.. she said, "Please." The magic word. THEN she would get what she wanted.

And boy, did she ever get it.

She worked out in her little mind that PLEASE was a very big and important word, a "magic" word, in fact, for getting what she wanted. She didn't say it, she didn't get it yet. But as soon as she said it, she got her heart's desire.

It made me wonder, was there a better way to teach her about manners, specifically the word, "Please"?

What if, while she was still a young toddler, I had gone ahead and handed her what she wanted right away (as long as it was something she could have, of course), and after I had given it to her had said, "The right way to ask for something is to say, 'May I please have...'"

I wonder.

Of course, it is too late now. The damage has been done. The Magic Word Monster will inevitably strike again on our next trip to the store.

So I have come up with a strategy to undo the damage, so to speak. On our next trip to the store, the word, "Please," will only be magical ONE time for each item she might ask for. After that, it loses its magic. No more Pleases, and she puts it back on the shelf.

If she does say Please again for that item, I will then pull out a large yellow stick (large craft stick painted yellow) from my purse and give it to her. It's her WARNING stick. She will hold it in her hand as a constant reminder that if she says Please again, she will then lose two reward chips from her cup at home (which she collects for good behavior, etc., to earn a prize from her prize bag). As soon as she puts that item back on the shelf, she can then give the WARNING stick back to me.

This rule will also apply to home, or places other than a store, anywhere she might use the word Please to try and get what she wants after she has been told No.

Of course, every now and then, I might say, "Yes." :-)

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reviving this Blog

Wow, has it really been over a year since I last posted on this Blog?

My daughter is 4 years old now, going on 14, soon to be 5 next month. She's in Pre-K this year, and I cannot believe she will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. I had originally planned to homeschool her, but when I wasn't sure we would survive it without one of us getting hurt, I figured it was time to look at other options. Add to that the fact that she is an only child with a very outgoing personality (think, "life of the party"), and I just couldn't see confining her to four walls with no other children to socialize with on a daily basis. Thankfully, I found a private school with an excellent reputation, and that uses the same advanced curriculum I would have used if I had homeschooled her.

This afternoon I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with her, so after picking her up from school, we went to lunch at Taco Bell, then went straight to the mall and started off by doing what every girl loves to do, browse around at the jewelry counter. My daughter was all too happy to pick out several pairs of earrings for me, as well as necklaces and bracelets. Her taste in jewelry is definitely different than mine. She likes big and gawdy and flashy, I like small and simple and elegant, though I have been known to pick something quite glamorous from time to time.

As we were leaving the jewelry counter and walked past the cosmetics, my daughter spotted one of those "high chairs for grown-ups"; i.e., the makeover chair, and she made a beeline for it. At first, she just stood near it and stared at the cosmetics consultant, smiling her famous melt-your-heart smile, looking quite adorable with her thick, wavy, honey-blonde hair, sprinkles of spiral curls throughout. The consultant smiled back at her and laughed, saying, "Well Hi there. Are you shopping today?" My daughter simply shook her head very slowly from side to side, still smiling that smile, her brown eyes lit up and twinkling as she looked toward "the chair."

The consultant laughed again and lowered her tone slightly as she asked, "You want some makeup, don't you?" My daughter nodded fervently. "Awww... I don't know about that..." she hesitated, looking at me. I told her a little blush and lip gloss would be okay, so my daughter climbed up in the chair and giggled, her back straight and her head held high as she waited. The consultant went and got some blush on a brush and brought it over and gently brushed her cheeks, then went to get some lip gloss on a lip brush and smoothed it on her lips. "Very pretty," we said, and she just beamed.

From there we made our way to the play area in the middle of the mall, which is right near Maggie Moo's ice cream (smart move by Maggie Moo). There was a kid's movie playing, which always attracts them like a magnet, so of course we had to stop there first. After eating ice cream and watching Ice Age 2 for awhile, it was off to the play area just steps away, where my daughter rounded up a couple of other girls to play chase, followed by "playing house" where she baked an imaginary cake for them to eat.

She didn't want to leave when it was time to go, of course, but I used my newly-learned tactic that works like a charm: I acted like I was leaving, with or without her. This time I didn't even have to say, "Bye," and start walking away. All I did was start picking up her socks and shoes and act like I was about to leave and she said, "Noooo, mama! Wait for me!" and came running over to put her shoes on.

I learned said tactic when my husband, who was with me one day at the mall, told me that he saw a mother say, "Okay, time to go!" and just started leaving the play area, without even looking back. Her two year old, who had hesitated prior to that, suddenly went running out of the play area to catch up with her. Smart woman. So I decided to try it on my daughter. Before I implemented the tactic, my daughter never, ever -- not once -- complied with my request to leave the play area, and a battle would ensue.

I would always win, of course (as parents should), but not without threats (such as never coming back to the play area again or losing some kind of privilege at home), or on especially tired days, a bribe. After I implemented it, she complied right way and every single time thereafter. Where oh where was this knowledge for the past two years? It could have saved me a lot of grief.

Now, just because she left the play area immediately thanks to my newly implemented "Bye, I'm leaving" tactic, doesn't mean that she didn't whine about it and put on a big drama show just for me (complete with poking out her bottom lip, putting on a pathetic sad face, and dropping here chin to her chest). But that's to be expected, it's just who she is. If you want a nice, boring, quiet life, she is not your girl.

I have to say, my husband and I were thrown for quite the loop when she came on the scene. We are both the quiet, mostly reserved type. We imagined being able to have quiet cuddles in front of the TV with our daughter, a daughter that would walk quietly by our side as we shopped in a store, that would play quietly with other kids while we visited with the parents and had uninterrupted adult conversation, and allow us plenty of time to ourselves after she was in bed early every night. Boy, were we ever deluded.

But, it is good for us. She brings us out of our proverbial shells, forces us to see things about ourselves that we might not otherwise see. And then there's her sense of humor, which guarantees we will laugh often, and her wonderful and colorful imagination, which knows no bounds. And she's so full of joy and has such a passion for life, and is smart as a whip. I could go on and on. We are very thankful we didn't get what we expected.

Anyway, we enjoyed spending time together today. Tonight when she pulled out the usual tricks from her hat to delay going to sleep (I'm scared, etc.), I asked if she wanted a quiet toy to play with and when she said no, went through naming several of her stuffed animals to see if she wanted any of those, all of which she rejected. Then she said, "I just want you, mama."

Trick or not, that one got me.