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Monday, March 29, 2010

Monkey See Monkey Do

Pin It The kids were at it again yesterday. I could hear them in the playroom, snarling and swiping at each other.

Part of me was sympathetic. It was raining outside, and we'd been home for a little under an hour from church, where we'd been all day. We'd had an array of exhausting activities (all the more so because of my duties as chief organizer), including a covered dish lunch, Easter egg hunt, bounce houses, panel board games, and Travis the Balloon Dude. It was fun, but we were all sapped of energy and just a little on edge. I was feeling a little snarly, myself.

The other part of me...the tired, had-enough, Mom part of me, was done. I carried two stools into the middle of the floor and set them twelve inches apart. It was time for some serious intervention, courtesy of Bonnie over at http://www.mammahasspoken.blogspot.com/ . Last time my kids had an argument, she gave me this brilliant discipline tidbit.

"Both of you take a seat on the stools," I ordered. With some grumbling and a "what the heck?!" from Autumn, they obeyed.

"Now, you are both going to tell each other ten things about the other that you love."

They looked at each other warily, but no one spoke a word. Apparently it was okay to tell each other how much you despise them, but love? HA!

"You're not getting up until you do," I added. "Autumn, you start."

She immediately began squirming on the stool, laying belly down across it and kicking her legs up in the air. "I-like-your-blue-jeans," she mumbled.

"Ehhhh. Compliments on clothing are not allowed."

Some more squirming ensued. Finally, "I love your brown eyes." I wasn't a big fan of appearance compliments, either, but decided to let it pass. I kind of loved his brown eyes, myself.

Lawson giggled. "I love your brown eyes, too." They were kind of the same, a deep sherry brown color with a darker rimming of chocolate.

"I like the way you take forever in the bathroom in the morning." I looked at Autumn in consternation.

"You like that?" She nodded affirmatively.

"It gives me an excuse to be late." Hmmm. Sneaky child.

Lawson spoke up. "I like that you help me with puzzles."

And so it went, until each had reached the requisite ten loving compliments. All told, it took around twenty five minutes to get there. Once complete, they looked at me expectantly.

"Alright...are we going to get along now?"


Giggling, they replaced the kitchen stools and resumed play. I didn't hear a single contrary word the rest of the night.

This exercise taught me a powerful lesson, and it's one I hope my kids got, too. It is amazing to me that insults and deprecations fall so easily from our lips to those we are closest to, but compliments are so difficult to squeeze out. I made a point later that evening, when my husband walked in the door, to thank him for all of his assistance during the Easter festival, and also for washing the dishes for me that afternoon. Then I proceeded to laugh like I was eighteen again at all of his corny jokes. I made sure the kids heard it. I want them to know that it's okay to be nice, polite, and good-natured to those we love, and to express gratitude toward them, because after all...monkey see, monkey do. I'm guilty, after fifteen years of marriage, of taking my wonderful husband just a little for granted.

After last evening, with my "nice" button firmly turned on, he's probably wondering what got into me.

It was just Mamma's teaching. Thanks, Bonnie.


Chrissy said...

What's that saying? " U can catch more flies w/honey than w/vinegar"? Its amazing what a compliment will do....

Mamma has spoken said...

You're welcome! Best part is seeing what they say/do when you tell them that they'll have to do it again if they don't get along AND they can't use the 10 things from last time. If they are anything like my sons, they'll stop right then and there and start getting along.

Teachinfourth said...

I like the way you make me laugh.
I like the funny things you do.
You got a style that's all your own.
I like the Sprite in…uh, I mean…

Great post, Lori! I could envision the interplay back and forth between these two in my mind's eye. Great job in teaching a lesson, I just might have to steal Bonnie's idea and use it in my classroom.

Mamma has spoken said...

Hey Jason, I do use this with students who can't seem to get along with each other. Had a set of girls that I wish I could say it made them best friends, it didn't. However, they now are able to talk to each other without being mean which is better than what it was.

Lori said...

Chrissy--very true!

Bonnie--I'd almost like to see them argue again, just so I can use it...

Jason--that's the first time I've ever been serenaded in a comment. ;) And I think it would be a great classroom exercise. I used to do something similar with my h.s. students, actually, that they loved. I think I did around Valentine's Day. I had each student take a piece of paper and list the names of every other student in the class. For each of their classmates, they then had to write at least one great thing about him/her. I collected the papers and spent some time compiling the results, and then gave each student their own "compliment" sheet. They loved seeing the nice things that had been written about them--it was a huge self-esteem booster.

Gerb said...

Alright. I'll be the first to admit that I'm getting sick of hearing my kids sing "We Are A Happy Family" every time they get into an argument (our current consequence). I'm going to give this a try. (I'm sure sometime within the next half hour...)

Richard & Natalie said...

I love everything about this, Lori. what a fabulous idea!

And Mamma, thanks for being so wise!

Anaise said...

Oh, we've done this exercise before . . . and it is amazing how the bickering starts up again within seconds! . . . even when I'm modeling the behavior, too. But I feel that at least they've seen a good example and thought some good thoughts and spoken some good words and perhaps eventually (someday) they'll act some good acts.

How lovely that it worked for your munchkins. I enjoyed reading this post.

Lori said...

Gerb, I'm going to have to try that one, too...

Natalie--danke ;)

Anaise--phooey...shame it doesn't work on all of them. I think it was just so different that mine were taken off guard. :)

Corine said...

I used to do that when mine were little! Only we only went to 5. I've had discipline on the brain, so good timing for me! I wonder if it works with youth... ?

Great post bty - very interesting.

Lori said...

Thanks, Corine! And I think it does work on youth, although perhaps it'd be more effective in a different format. See my response to Jason.

Corine said...

Lori - I read the comment -thanks! :)

Just a side note, to let you know... I haven't actually done it YET, but I did bring up the subject with my 15 yo boys. I also told them of another disciplining idea at the same time... their responses were way worth blogging about - so I did. :) You might enjoy reading it. The title is "Discipline = Fun"

TTFN! Corine :)

diane rene said...

I am working this backwards, but I wanted to thank you for the inspiration you have given me through this post (and the comment you left on mine). some days I feel like there are more fights than I have solutions for, especially when it comes to three female offspring!. after reading this, I feel ready for a new fight ... but I'm appreciative for the peace as long as I can have it ;)

Lori said...

Aww, Diane--thanks! As for those three girls... I.just.can't.imagine. Your work is amazing.

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