Tagged: positive reinforcement

The big D

We have reached the tipping point with our kids. The three of them have always been full of energy and attitude. And for a while, I must admit, DH and I had got some pride (or at the very least very hearty laughs) out from the borderline psychopathic stuff they come up with. For example:

– Two weeks ago, it was pitch dark outside in the woods while we stayed at our friends’ house in Vermont and P. stood in the middle of the night facing the the double door windows in silence. I kept calling her and she would not turn back to face me. It was unnerving, worse than the whole ‘Josh, Josh’ scenes in the Blair Witch Project. I started to to freak out big time (I believe in ghosts, there you go, I am really out in every way now on this blog) so she eventually slowly turned around with a death stare and showed her teeth a la Shining’s Jack Nicholson. I almost peed in my pants from both fear and laughter.

– At this week’s music class, the teacher did a ‘let’s imagine animals’ version of the ‘Old MacDonald had a farm song’ and asked each child to describe animals, what they’re like and what noises they make etc. When most kids came up with straight answers: ‘pink pig’, ‘grey cat’, ‘rabbit with short ears’, G’s answer (while showing his teeth jaws): ‘a big Papa Lion who eats a pig…’
P-S-Y-C-H-O. And here I was half grinning and half wondering whether I should lock my bedroom door at night time.

– At the last birthday party we attended, after L exited the party and slammed the door to lock all of us inside, one of the guests told me: ‘I assume he is one of yours too, the dudes with an attitude…’ The same guest had previously been shocked by a P shushing me down by saying: ‘shushhh Mom! If you keep talking I am not going to be very, very, very happy’ and a G running after people pretending to be a maniac crocodile.

So yeah up to now, we have been fairly lenient with the three of them because they have spunk and are funny. Except that recently their spunk has turned into insolence, aggressiveness and pure disregard for any rules. And it is no longer funny, even with a twisted dark sense of humor. G especially started to spit in our faces, bite like a stray dog, kick like a Tekken character and throw wooden toys, food, diapers, sound system speakers, shoes, etc. on the floor on a lucky day or on his siblings’ heads on an inspired day. I am getting very concerned by this primal behavior, especially after I caught him chewing a chicken bone under the dining table. Granted I myself eat cartilages and chew bones (I am Lao, it is what some of us just do hahaha) but NEVER under a table. C’mon now.

Anyway, the time for discipline with a big D has come. We have used in the past diverse strategies to discipline them or, should I say american style, reinforce positive behavior but these tricks are no longer working. Time out became a joke; they started to take the piss and time each other out on a regular basis as a game. We threatened to throw away their toys but now they happily do it themselves as to say: ‘We are not materialistic brats, we don’t give a shit’ as if…We tried the rewarding system with good points and stickers but they (and us parents too) got over it. So what was left? Empty hysterical and colorful threats delivered at the top of our lungs such as ‘Je te jure si tu n’arretes pas, je t’arrache les cheveux jusqu’a ce que tu ressembles a un bonze’ (I swear if you don’t stop, I will pull your hair until you look like a monk) or ‘Si tu continues a me frapper, je me casse pour toujours dans une ile deserte’ (‘If you keep hitting me, I am walking the hell out of the door for ever to live on a desert island).

We thus started something bold and painful to discipline our kids: discipline ourselves. So that’s how this house is going to be run from now on.

– No more ‘1,2,3, 3 and half..ok I’ll count until 5 and if you don’t stop I will not give you milk (my kids’ Achilles’ heel) before bedtime! OK, then this time you can have it but next time, beware’. It is now 1,2,3 no milk even if you turn blue, scream for murder, kick my breasts or tell me that you love me.

– No more ‘let’s get the bouncy castle out, kiddos’ at any occasion. I mean, we bought something to help us through this tough winter and they love it so much that it could have become our most prized bargaining chip but what did we do? We fucking ruined it by setting it out without being asked to because DH and I are moronic retarded pre-schoolers! Now they will have to earn the BC.

– No more screen time. No, we can’t do this. It is like suicide bombing myself.

– No more… Actually we have nothing else. Any ideas? We are desperate.

Kids messing around

I am …

When I woke up this morning, I really felt like I had drunk 5 cosmos, smoked 20 fags and as if a body snatcher was crawling out of my limbs pulling away my bladder with its teeth… I was feeling old, basically. And then G stood in front of me wearing only his underwear, exposed, and shouted with gusto with his arms wide open: ‘Mama, I am perfect!’ . Could this just be the Botox cocktail I really needed?

To be honest, I did not know how to react to my son’s proclamation of self-love. My first thought was: ‘where did he get this from? We never use the word ‘perfect’ in this household…’ And it was quite a sobering epiphany. Where I grew up, perfection simply can never be attained. Is it because French education breeds  generations of analytical, self-aware but pessimist, overly critical and eventually gloomy adults, as suggests Patricia Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bebe, in this article for Vanity Fair.fr  (sorry this one is in French only)?

I, indeed, remembered 2 instances in high school when the goody two shoes girl I used to be thought : ‘what the fuck?’ My history teacher’s preferred saying used to irrate me. He was gloating every single freaking time he said it: ‘18 is the grade the best student deserves, 19 is the teacher’s grade and 20/20, well …is God‘. It was not even a catholic school so you’ll understand my confusion there. And then my English teacher, while giving me back my very final high school exam paper, said with deep regret: ‘Pfff….I do feel bad that I have never managed to give you a 20/20 in the 3 years that I have taught you…‘. She have me a 19.75 !!! How absurd was it? To this day, I am still not sure what I was supposed to take away from this off the cuff remark.

But perhaps it was not my education but it was my ‘Battle Royale’ like home. For those who have never watch this Japanese cult movie, here’s the synopsis: ‘A group of ninth-grade students from a Japanese high school have been forced by legislation to compete and kill each other in a Battle Royale‘… Of course, I am not sure there was ever a winner in my home because it seemed we were never good enough anyway. Lao style. You would say something that really makes you proud and my mom would snap out of her daydreaming and would say: ‘I think my larb (Lao meat salad) has too much fish sauce in it‘. What the fuck ???? Congratulations, compliments, and nice words in general are NOT in my family DNA. In fact, something really weird happened this week. We were on a Skype session with my mom and P was talking to her and suddenly my mom blurted out: ‘I love you P’. I think my ears must have blocked it out. But DH later said: ‘did you her what your mom said? That was touching, right? I mean, has she ever told you that she loved you?’ I laughed: ‘Nope.  Are you mad? What do you think?’

Don’t get me wrong, DH and I are all about positive reinforcement or should I say positive realignment (yeah, his family can be as fucked up as mine) and we make sure to value our kids’ good deeds and successes. But I realized on second thought that what G said this morning put the light onto something else. It was not about me saying that he was good,  it was about him having the balls and candor to say ‘I am perfect’. When was the last time you heard a grown up say something that ballsy about themselves? And say it in an unapologetical way , without caveats or a ‘hahaha I was kidding’ afterwards? Fuck that. Maybe that is why I feel so old. Maybe it’s not the wrinkles or the extra fat or the yellowing teeth. Maybe it’s the audacity for self-appreciation that is missing. So to finish off my very tiring and stressful week I am going to play G’s game and be ballsy myself. Here’s my ‘I am’ list:

I am very funny.

I am resourceful.

I am kind.

I am real.

What’s your list?

And here’s little G in all his ‘perfection’ 🙂