My sweet girl has started a new phase. Talking back. At four years old, I’d say she’s overdue. Her terrible two’s weren’t that terrible, three had it’s phases but overall she was very loving and obedient. Time-outs worked pretty effectively, and all you had to do was threaten to send her there and she would hop back on the straight and narrow before you could say, “Mario” (her newest love, see posts filed under Halloween as well as future posts filed under Christmas)
Now, though, time-outs are less effective (especially if she is sent there with her brother, they usually end up laughing and rolling on the floor and Ella will ask, “Hey Pax, you wanna play a game?”) She no longer turns and trots straight to the bottom of the stairs, instead my verdicts are met with “Well, I said yes!” or “I ron’t!” (her version of “don’t”. I can’t help but chuckle to myself when she says that one so defiantly) Her foot will stomp on the ground and a battle usually ensues.
Until one tumultuous day I got the bright idea to use something else for leverage. Her Mario shirt. She wears this shirt six out of seven days and usually asks all day long on the seventh day when she can wear it again. So as I was arguing with her about getting to time-out the mario shirt popped in my head and I saw dollar signs. This was her currency.
Before I could even think about what I was about to say, I heard the words “one week” slip out of my mouth and smack me in the face. I was almost as shocked as Ella was at the prospect of her going seven days without her beloved shirt. Erica was in the laundry room, but I’m almost sure I heard her drop whatever she was doing and pass out on the floor. I realized I had just sentenced my wife to one week of unbearable torture as Ella went for a new Guiness World Record for the number of times the same question could be asked in a row without taking a breath or sleeping.
“Three days” I quickly recovered. I thought if I got this out there soon enough, Ella would be so relieved she wouldn’t notice how I was negotiating with myself. My conscience was somewhat soothed, but by now the reality of my words had begun to sink in to her four year old mind. The tears and crying turned her face bright red and so I backed down one more time. “Two days.” I was standing firm. Now, though I was hoping she would remember that I started at seven, and the consequences wouldn’t seem so great in light of that fact.
Erica and I had a few more hours at home before Grandma and Grandpa were coming over to watch the kids. Those hours were filled with valuable learning moments for both of us as Ella said with true remorse, “I’m sorry for talking back. I ron’t do it again…can I wear my Mario shirt now?” And every time she pleaded her case and asked for her mario shirt (which was a lot) we had to reinforced instead of caving in.
“You disobeyed and that is your punishment, I wish you could wear your Mario shirt. It makes mommy and daddy sad to have to punish you, too.”
Following through is hard to do.
And I felt a little bad for leaving her in that state with Grandma and Grandpa. We told them the situation as we headed out the door and I know it must have been hard but they are truly awesome grandparents and support us in amazing ways.
Two Days Later…
I was startled awake at 2:00 AM and stumbled into Ella’s room. The first thing out of her mouth was “Can I wear my Mario shirt now?”