July 19, 2013

3 Strikes and You're Out

Colton is 3.  And in case you've never had the joy of being around a 3-year old, it turns out this is the uber fun age where kids start to test their limits...BIG TIME!  Don't get me wrong.  For the most part, Colton is still a pretty easy-going, well-behaved, sweet little boy, BUT our days of 100% compliance are a goner.
And one recent day at Chik-Fil-A, the shit really hit the fan!  We had stopped there for lunch with a friend after a fun morning at the aquarium (I know...my kids have a rough life, right?).  Of course, lunch at Chik-Fil-A comes with obligatory play time in the jungle gym thing.  We did it, and I issued Colton his two minute warning.  Well, two minutes came and went and the boy would not come down from the top of this thing.  Even worse, he was cracking up at me as he perched at the top, knowing full well he was not following directions.  I gave him a few chances and then, with steam coming out of my ears, started to climb the freaking thing myself  Well, of course, he came down at that point.  And I grabbed him, resisted the urge to kill him, marched him straight to the car, and realized we needed a better plan.  Colton needed consequences for not listening.
Well, another thing about 3-year olds, or at least my 3-year old, is that they are very aware of what they like.  I don't know if you would call it hobbies yet, but definitely favorites.  Colton is currently obsessed with the game Candyland.  Seriously, OBSESSED.  It was really cute at first, but now that we have to play it 3-4 times a day, with him asking for it even more than that, it's borderline annoying.  But at least, I reasoned, we have something to hold over his head.
So, we came up with a strike system and made a little chart for it.

Each day, Colton starts out with a clean slate.  Anytime he doesn't listen to us he gets a strike.  Sometimes we give him a warning: "that will be a strike if you don't _____" after we've already asked him to do something once.  If he gets his three strikes, then there are no more games of Candyland in our house for that day.  Considering Josh, Colton, and I usually play one final game after Levi goes to sleep each night, it's a thing we can hang over his head right up to the last minute!
It's a pretty simple system, but so far, it's been pretty effective.  Both in my classroom and now as a parent, I firmly believe that children need to learn that their behavior is a matter of making good choices.  You make good choices and good things happen...you get to do fun things, etc.  But when you make bad choices, there are consequences.  Explaining that to a 3-year old would probably be a waste of time, but at least now with our little systemhe is hopefully learning he is in control of the choices he makes.

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