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.