We've been battling a very emotional Caleb as of late. When he gets frustrated, he just seems to explode, and I can see it in his eyes and in the way his body shakes that he can't quite keep control yet. That being said, I knew we had to do something to at least help him start trying to control his temper.
Last Sunday night, after repeated warnings throughout the day, James had had it and lashed out with a punishment: no Wii the next Saturday. You see, the boys only get Wii time on Saturdays, and this is about the worst punishment you could hit Caleb with. He loves video games.
The trouble, however, was evident to me immediately. It was Sunday. Wii time wasn't for another 6 days. The consequence was too far away for Caleb to relate it to his current behaviour, and come Saturday, we would be faced with another meltdown because he would have forgotten by then that he had lost the opportunity to play.
I pondered the behaviour, the punishment and the consequences over the next 24 hours. Caleb had begged for a chance to "earn his time back" and James had left it up to me. It was the "earn it back" that finally inspired our new system for Caleb.
Instead of starting with Wii time and losing it bit by bit, he now starts with zero time and earns it minute by minute. The basic premise, as explained to Caleb, is that he needs to learn to stay on task, do things in a timely fashion without complaining, and absolutely no meltdowns. The reward system is completely up to James and I. Getting dressed for school, brushing his teeth, making his bed, playing nicely with Benjamin, taking himself to his room to avoid a fight - all things that can earn him a wii minute. The best part is how quickly he obeys now. In the past, after 15 minutes upstairs and the school bus only minutes away, we would be raising our voices in frustration that Caleb still wasn't ready. Now I tell him he can earn 3 wii minutes by getting dressed, brushing teeth and making his bed, and he does it in minutes.
This week he earned 26 minutes. (To be honest, I let him play more than that today. Caleb can't actually measure time yet, so he doesn't realize I've let him have extra. James is working all day today from the time they woke up until the time they go to bed, and sometimes I just need a quiet moment to get something done!) As Caleb does learn to measure time, I'm hoping anywhere between 30-60 minutes is what he can earn. Judging from last week, that seems to be a good marker.
So this is the new system, and it works so well for us. Taking away something as a punishment can be very abstract for kids, but when you give them the chance to exhibit good behaviour and be rewarded tangibly, it seems to have a much more immediate effect. Definitely going to keep this in mind as parenting moments arise in the future.