Positive reinforcement- our secret gem

So as you guys already know, I started going to a gym that has childcare. The one I go to is great, and the ladies that run the childcare center are wonderful. However, it’s only considered a casual childcare center- it’s not an accredited daycare center. They don’t do snacks, change diapers, or anything like that. And there is a two-hour time limit. But I’m super happy just to have the option!

The childcare at the gym is great to have, but it’s a little zoo-ish and a bit of a free-for-all. There is no structure, which is something Nathan really needs.  The other kids get really wild, which Nathan can’t handle. Don’t get me wrong, the workers try. They really do. But since it’s a casual childcare center, they’re not trained to handle kids like mine.

So we’re working on lots of positive reinforcement. I am innundating Nathan with positivity. Its important to catch him doing something right. But when he acts up, he gets only one warning, and then I discipline him. I’m not going to give him chance after chance to behave. Why, you ask? Because that’s not real life. And because respects me when I give him boundaries and limits and I STICK to them.

As for the childcare at the gym, I’m using a coupon system. You see, the workers had lost control of him. When they try to put him in timeout, he fights. I mean, tooth and nail. Complete with scratching, kicking, hitting, the works. Once he reaches that point, they have to let him go and not force it since he could hurt himself or them. Unfortunately, to Nathan it meant that all he had to do was fight like hell and then he could get out of trouble. It’s not like that with me, though; I’m Mother. I don’t care if it takes me an hour to get him to stay in timeout for three consecutive minutes. Fighting me never, ever gets him out of a consequence. I have never, not one time, given in. Never. He can’t get out of discipline with me. But he knows he can with others. Hence, the coupon system.

So Nathan and I will draw a picture of a special treat (ice cream, popsicle, etc.) of something he doesn’t get often, and we call it his coupon. We hand it over to the workers when we arrive, so Nathan has a visual of the workers being in control of whether or not he receives his coupon when he leaves. And then if he behaves, they give him the coupon and he redeems the coupon for his treat when we get home. However, if he doesn’t behave, we wave bye-bye to the coupon and leave it there for next time.

There has been only one time I’ve had to veto the coupon they gave him. There were about 15 screaming kids running around in there, and Nathan lost control. He started pushing and kicking and screaming, thrashed and crashed and lost control. He fought the workers when they attempted to put him in timeout, so they had to come get me. After I disciplined him, I had to take my shower. While I was gone, Nathan pulled the fire alarm (WHY do they have those damn things within children’s reaches in the nursery anyway??) The building had to be evacuated, the fire department came, the whole kit-n-caboodle.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with the ladies who work there are wonderful women. They have huge hearts and genuinely like the kids, especially mine. They dote on him, and there is one lady in particular who tries to spend as much on-on-one time with him as she can when he’s there- because she’s noticed he does better when she does. And she told me she just loves how precious, sweet, and kind he is. So anyway, this particular worker (I’ll call her A) said although Nathan was quite naughty, he still deserved his coupon because he tried to be good… A told me it wasn’t his fault the other kids were too rowdy, causing him to become overstimulated. She said she could tell he tried so hard to be good, but it was just too loud and too rowdy in there, and he lost control. So she handed him the coupon and said he did a good job trying to be good.

I thought long and hard about that as Nathan and I drove home, and I made the executive decision as his mother to veto the coupon. I understand what A meant, I really do. And I do agree with her. He really DOES try, and it’s not his fault that he has sensory issues. However, trying won’t get you shit in real life. You can try not to be late for work, but your boss won’t give a damn. You can try to turn in a work project on time, but that won’t matter if you miss your deadline. Trying doesn’t mean squat in real life, only what you actually do.

So I vetoed the coupon. Nathan was gloriously angry about it and had a monstrous meltdown, but I stood my ground. We as a society have to remember that we’re not raising children; we’re raising adults. Yes it would have made me feel good in the moment, short term, to give him his coupon and make him happy. But it would have been self-centered of me because I would be thinking of how it made me feel rather than teaching him an important lesson. It would have hurt him in the long run and not taught him anything. Because even though it’s not his fault, per se, that other kids’ rowdiness overstimulates him, as his mother it’s my job to teach him that his behavior was unacceptable. It’s my job to teach him what behaviors are and are not appropriate.

The only way he can learn that is if I teach him. And I don’t want my child to be like this entitled generation of kids we have on our hands now whose only thoughts are me, me, me! I want him to be responsible, successful, and self sufficient.

But you know what? After that incident, he has earned every single one of his coupons thereafter. And the last few days, he has been SPECTACULAR. As in, zero incidents! The workers told me his behavior has been PERFECT. He’s been so kind to everyone, including the other children. He’s been doling out hugs and affection, and today I was told that when he saw a little girl crying, he got her some tissues, dabbed her eyes, and said “No cry, dry the tears” and then gave her hugs.

Stuff like that melts my heart.

In fact, he’s been so well behaved that today one of the male workers made a point to go to the manager’s office after his shift was over (before it was time for me to get Nathan) to tell management to tell me that Nathan was so well behaved that he deserved TWO ice creams (which was his coupon today.) The manager told me Nathan has been a pure joy.

My heart felt like it was going to burst with love.

Being a parent is a rough path to walk, that’s for sure. Its hard to come up with the right strategy to control your children. Parenting is fluid, constantly changing. At least with Nathan. That kid keeps me on my toes, I tell ya. We’re constantly changing our tactics to keep up with what works best for him. And as cliche as it sounds, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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