Tag Archive | 1-2-3 Magic

Magic Pennies

I did some really great parenting yesterday.

It was that kind of day, you know? The kind that starts out tough and just gets tougher; the sort of day that has potential to go, as Ian would say in British, “completely pear-shaped.” Not to mention that with a new job and the mindbogglingly stressful and emotionally taxing somewhat time-consuming responsibilities that I’ve taken on at church battling my regular day-to-day tasks for ultimate supremacy, my time is at a premium and sleep a distant memory, so patience-wise, I’m not exactly at my best.

The kids were way overtired from the minute they woke up – as demonstrated by the fact that they were bickering, yelling, and at each other’s throats from the moment they rolled out of the wrong side of their beds.


This is what ‘overtired’ looks like.

Ben had a PD Day, and our plan was to drop Molly off at her school and then spend a special “Mommy and Ben morning” painting pottery at Crock-A-Doodle, but by 9:30 he was neck-deep in Meltdown #3 (“NO I WILL NOT HAVE MY TALONS NAILS CLIPPED BEFORE WE GO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME NO NO NOOOOOOOOOO I WON’T I WON’T I WON’T!!!!”) and I was thinking, “This just ain’t going to end well.”

But I stayed calm. He yelled…and I stayed calm. He screamed…and I stayed calm. He flailed…and I still stayed calm. Finally he settled down enough to have his nails clipped, requested tickles to cheer him up, and then we left.

And that was Great Parenting Moment #1.

We painted at Crock-A-Doodle for almost two hours – long enough that we lost track of time and had a panicked race to finish so we could pick Molly up on time. We painted AMAZING masterpieces together – I wish I could go back in time and do it over and over again because it was the most incredible, wonderful bonding time I’ve had with Ben ever. (Pictures of the masterpieces will follow in a few days when we pick them up!)


Masterpieces, pre-firing.

There was no anxiety over perfectionism on either of our parts (a trait we both have in spades!) – just a fun, creative time together, sharing ideas, and complimenting each other’s work (“Mommy, I love your under the sea mug. I think it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever made. And I love my heart mug for daddy – It’s going to be so amazing.”) Ben has a tendency to be hypercritical of himself, especially when it comes to art, so to hear him so pleased with himself was wonderfully refreshing.

I guess that was Great Parenting Moment #2, though Ben deserves at least half the credit!

find some magic pennies

…and all the credit for his masterpiece! Text reads “Find some magic pennies every day”.

We picked Molly up, ate lunch, and then they went to play MarioKart. Soon the overtiredeness reared its ugly head again as they launched back into bicker-yell-grab-hysterics-yell-bicker mode. As it devolved into screaming with no apparent cause or solution I walked into the room and – again calmly – turned off the TV, took the controllers away, and marched them upstairs.

Usually at this point in a day like this, I would be overcome with frustration and, if not yelling, certainly close to it (you know the tone – gritted teeth and rapid-fire punctuation – “Get. Up. Stairs.”), and Ben and Molly know it. But this time I was still completely Zen. I wasn’t angry, just focused giving them both some space from each other and from me. And were they ever confused – you could tell that they were expecting some sort of lecture and punishment.

I put them in their rooms and spoke to them one at a time – “Are we having nap? Are we in time-out?” “You are having some quiet time. You need to stay in your room. You can look at books and read or play quietly. Don’t leave your room – don’t talk to Molly/Ben – don’t yell down and ask me if it’s done. I’ll come and get you when you’re finished.” And then I went back downstairs, feeling relieved – not because I wasn’t going to have to listen to them screeching, but because they both finally seemed to be having a breather and getting the quiet and space that they needed to settle down.

And that was Great Parenting Moment #3.

Later in the day, Molly wanted to watch Beauty and the Beast, and Ben objected strenuously. Again the tiredness came out (unfortunately the quiet time couldn’t quite solve that issue!) and he started yelling in rapid-fire bursts, “NO!” “I WON’T!” “I DON’T WANT TO!” His tantrum culminated in his approaching me and Molly, saying (seemingly calmly), “Can I tell you something?” and then screaming into my waiting ear, “IT’S TOO SCARY!”

Boy oh boy…on any other day, I would have Hit. The. Roof. He had deliberately set me up; my ears were ringing; and I was furious. How Dare He? But from somewhere deep inside a little voice said, “breathe,” and I did. And I looked my little boy in the eyes – eyes that looked shocked and scared, anticipating my reaction – and I said, “Ben, go and sit on the step, please.” And that was Great Parenting Moment #4.

I set up the movie for Molly, took a few deep breaths, and then went to talk to Ben. First we talked how I was upset because he had made me think he was just going to say something and then screamed, and it hurt both my ear and my feelings. And then we talked about the yelling and screaming in general and why he did it and how he was going to stop doing it. He said, “I do it when I’m FRUSTRATED.” I asked if he screams at school and he said no. I asked if he gets frustrated at school, and he said yes. I asked why, if he still gets frustrated at school, doesn’t he scream there, but he does at home.

He thought for a minute and then answered in that astoundingly astute Ben way

I guess it’s because at home I know you love me and you’ll keep loving me when I scream but at school they don’t have to.

And I hugged him harder than ever, and that was Great Parenting Moment #5.

mommy and Ben

Special ‘Mommy and Ben Day’ at Crock-A-Doodle!

I might not be the greatest parent in the world. But I have my moments. And I think they’re a little like that magic penny – the more of those moments I can make, and the more I recognize them and remember them, the more I can build on them. And the more Ben and Molly will come to expect them and appreciate them and one day have their own.

~ karyn

Do you find it hard to keep your temper when your kids are overtired? What do you do to keep from yelling? Do you remember to give yourself a pat on the back when you get it right?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The downside of having two very intelligent and highly verbal children is that they can and will argue you into a corner EVERY TIME. Last week Ian and I decided that it was high time we had a (somewhat) tidy house again.

Brio Peak and Brio Valley had been slowly but surely taking over the first floor. Brio Peak was very impressive, but since hitting its…uh…pinnacle around January/February, it had gone…uh…downhill, so to speak. <—- see what I did there? While it was still a spectacular installation when viewed as a whole, there were a lot of broken bits (either through accident or the frequent “bad storms” that seem to affect the geographic area of the living room). As a result, most of the living room, entranceway, and playroom was littered with pieces of wooden track, Lego, blocks, and Playmobil people and accessories.

Ben and I had had many discussions in which I had said that I was fine with Brio Valley staying out as long as the mess was kept under control – that meant that any parts that were not recognizable as built tracks had to be tidied away into boxes or cubbies – and he agreed.

When it comes to tidying up though, I have to admit I’m not a great one for follow-through – it is often easier to just do it myself than to make Ben and Molly do it. Unfortunately for all of us, this means that when I do lay down the law and try to make them do it, it’s all that much harder – and, with the aforementioned problem of intelligent and verbal children, it becomes a nightmare of:

“But I still need to play with that!!”

“But Molly was supposed to do that part!!”

“But Ben’s not helping!!”

“But Molly’s just playing!!”

“But I don’t LIKE cleaning up!!”

“I WILL help in a MINUTE”

“I DID put the scissors away – I put them away on the table so I know where they are when I need them!”

“I DID put the toys in the playroom like you said!!”

“But you NEVER SAID to put them in their CUBBY!”






…which it did, and I had what 1-2-3 Magic calls a parental temper tantrum. I told Ben and Molly to sit down against the wall and not do anything while I finished cleaning up.

And then, because I was on a roll, I cleaned up EVERYTHING. Including Brio Valley and Brio Peak. With whispering golf sportscasters in the background:

“Ben! Mommy’s cleaning up Brio Valley!” “I know – my track-building masterpiece!” “But what are we going to do without Brio Valley?” “I don’t know!” “Is she putting it all away?” “I don’t know. I hope not!”

I did calm down, and I give myself a little pat on the back because I DIDN’T yell through this whole process, which I feel was impressive given the amount of yelling and screaming that was being directed AT me by Ben and Molly.

I think the fact that I didn’t yell helped my case quite a lot – *I* knew that it started out as a mommy tantrum, but Ben and Molly didn’t – they just saw the resulting action of me dismantling Brio Peak, and it got the message across that this was A. Big. Deal.

Actions louder than words

Photo of part of Brio Peak. Overlay reads: “Actions speak louder than words. Even really loud words.”

Ian gave them dinner, and they ate quietly and well, without as much complaining as often happens at the dinner table, and he took them up to get ready for bed while I finished the tidy and moved all the toys back to the playroom.

When I finished I joined them upstairs and then we had The Talk.

I said, “Remember when I first asked you to help tidy up and I said if you couldn’t help keep the living room tidy, you wouldn’t be allowed to play in the living room anymore? Well, you wouldn’t help tidy up, even when I gave you small jobs to do like putting away one marker and a pair of scissors, so now you can’t play in the living room.”

Ben, subdued, asked, “But can I ever have Brio Peak back?”

“Yes. We will start out by having toys only in the playroom, and if you show me that you can put them away when you’re finished playing with them, we can try having Brio Peak again. Molly, that goes for you too. What do you do at school when you’re finished with a job?”

“Put it away.”

“And what happens if you don’t put it away?”

“Can’t do that job anymore.”

“Now the same goes at home, for both of you.”

Ian: “If you finish playing with something and you don’t put it away, mommy or I will ask you to put it away. If you don’t put it away when we ask you, you will sit out AND that toy will go away for a week.”

Molly: *gasp* “A whole week??”

Ben: “What about if I want to play with something again later, like a train track?”

Me: “If it is built, and you ask permission, it can stay out. But pieces of track or blocks that aren’t built have to go away.”

Ben: “How will I know if it has to go away?”

Ian: “You tidy up what you think needs to go away, then ask us if that’s okay, and we’ll either say yes or tell you what else has to go away.”

Me: “We will try this for a little while, and if it goes well, you can build Brio Peak again – BUT it has to be kept tidy, so when you build it, you can bring your track drawers into the living room, and take the track pieces that you’re using out, and the ones that you aren’t using yet stay in the drawer, not all over the floor. Got it?”

Ben and Molly: “Got it.”

So we’ll see how it all goes. I know that for Ian and me it will be an effort to enforce the new rules rather than let it slide and pick things up themselves. I just went into the playroom and stopped myself as I bent down to pick up a train on the floor – when Ben gets home from daycamp, I’ll start by asking him to put it away and we’ll go from there.

I am a little frustrated with myself that it started as a mommy tantrum, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. Ian and I are both comfortable with my decision to dismantle Brio Peak and would have made the same decision had we taken the time to discuss it calmly and weigh the options – it seems like that actual ACTION was necessary to derail (so to speak) Ben and Molly’s knee-jerk objections to tidying up and stun them into silence long enough to actually reflect on the situation.

And I’m proud of myself for not screaming, which used to be MY knee-jerk (and not nearly as effective or productive) reaction to achieve that same stunned silence. Actions speak louder than words, even really, really loud words.

~ karyn

How do you get your kids to tidy up? What are your rules about toys? Have you had a parental temper tantrum? How did you come back from it?

The Tao of Time-Out

The other morning I watched as a parent cornered one of Molly’s teachers and asked, “So do you subscribe to that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy?” and she struggled to answer in a way that satisfied – not because one was wrong and the other was right, but because it often seems like when two people talk about “time-out” they might as well be speaking two completely different languages.

I don’t know when exactly “time-out” got such a bad rap, but I think a big part of the problem is that 99 percent of people who do “time-out” don’t do it right and 99 percent of people who don’t do it have only ever seen it done wrong. Most people who don’t believe in “that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy” have tried it out at some point – you know, the old,

“If you don’t stop that right now I’m putting you in time-out! DID YOU HEAR ME? That’s ONE! If I have to come over there, I’m going to…THAT’S TWO! I MEAN IT! DON’T MAKE ME GET TO THREE! I’m not kidding around! You are going in TIME-OUT, MISTER!! I TOLD YOU TO STOP! OKAY, THAT’S IT!! THREE!!! YOU GO AND SIT ON THAT TIME-OUT STEP RIGHT NOW!! You’re sitting there for five minutes because you didn’t…HEY, GET BACK ON THAT STEP! I TOLD YOU TO SIT DOWN! NOW THAT’S 10 MINUTES!! WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO SIT THERE!! NO TALKING!! DON’T MAKE FACES AT YOUR SISTER!! GET BACK ON THAT STEP RIGHT NOW! NOW YOU CAN SIT THERE FOR 10 MORE MINUTES!”

– and found that for some reason it didn’t work. We’ve all been there. The key to time-out is no different from any other discipline technique: Discipline techniques that work are those that are calm and consistent. Even spanking will be effective if it’s done within those parameters. I take issue philosophically with teaching children not to hit by hitting, but as long you consistently follow through, it will certainly change the behaviour that you want it to change.


©PicklesINK 2013

1-2-3 Magic devotes an entire chapter to the false notion or “wish” (which I think is a really interesting way of looking at it) that is behind why most discipline attempts that don’t work: The Little Adult Assumption.

The Little Adult Assumption is the belief that kids have hearts of gold and that they are basically reasonable and unselfish. they’re just smaller versions of grownups, in other words. and because they are little adults, this notion goes, whenever the youngsters are misbehaving or not cooperating, the problem must be that they don’t have enough information at their disposal to be able to do the right thing.

Imagine, for example, that your eight-year-old son is torturing his little sister for the fifteenth time since they got home from school. What should you do? If your boy is a little adult, you simply sit him down, calmly look him in the eye, and explain to him the three golden reasons why he shouldn’t  tease his sister. First of all, teasing hurts her. Second, it makes you mad at him. Third — and most important — how would he feel if someone treated him like that?

Your son looks you in the eye, his face brightening with insight, and he says, “Gee, I never looked at it like that before!” Then he stops bothering his sister for the rest of his life. (1-2-3 Magic, pp. 15-16)

Even well into adolescence and young adulthood, our brains are still developing and changing. Children are simply not capable of understanding or thinking rationally at the same level as adults. Part of our job as parents is give your children a safe space in which to express their feelings and opinions, but another very important part of our job is to teach our children how to act appropriately  – “I understand that you are very angry, but it is not okay to throw your toys, and there are consequences to that choice.”

The parent talking to Molly’s teacher said, “We do a lot of getting down to their level and talking to them.” 1-2-3 Magic explains that while one explanation can be appropriate – it could be that your child really did not have the necessary information to act appropriate – it’s attempts at repeated explanations that can lead to trouble, adding, interestingly, “too much parent talking irritates and distracts children” (p. 17). I can certainly see that – if I’m already feeling overwhelmed by a situation and consequently acting out, the last thing I need is for someone to get right in my face and talk at me! The teacher replied, “We use a lot of redirection, but then if we have to we remove the child from the situation.” Well, ladies and gentleman, in accepting this explanation that parent may not have realized it, but what that teacher described was…drum-roll please…a time-out!

I absolutely subscribe to “that whole ‘time-out’ philosophy.” It is one of the most important discipline tools I have as a parent. In a recent blog post, Alyson Schafer noted that the word “discipline” is derived from “disciple,” meaning to teach or guide. I see time-out as a tool for teaching as well as an important skill for my children to learn, and in fact part of that involves them seeing ME taking a time-out when I need to.

As I mentioned before, the two keys to effective discipline are consistency and calmness: Firstly, in order for any discipline technique to effect a change in behaviour, it must be consistent. This means that if you say, “If you don’t do/stop doing X, I am going to Y,” and the child doesn’t do/stop doing X, you HAVE TO do Y. If you don’t do Y EVERY SINGLE TIME, your child will actually not do/not stop doing X even MORE OFTEN than if you never did Y at all. In operant conditioning, this is called a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule. In fairness to anti-time-out parent, as long as he/she is consistently “getting down to his level and talking” EVERY SINGLE TIME it will also eventually work to change the child’s behaviour – the only danger is that if the child interprets this as positive attention, it is possible that the change may not be the one the parent intends.

Second, in order for any discipline technique to work the way you want it to, it must be calm. 1-2-3 Magic calls the use of too much (negative) emotion in trying to discipline a “parental temper tantrum.” When you let your emotions get the better of you while trying to discipline, several things happen: a. You show your child that he or she has the power to cause you to lose control; b. You upset and frighten your child; and c. You probably aren’t applying your chosen discipline technique consistently.

It’s the combination of parental loss of emotional control (temper tantrum) and lack of consistency that derails most attempts at “that whole time-out philosophy.” Remember that whole, “I’m telling you, IF I GET TO THREE YOU ARE GETTING A TIME-OUT, MISTER!!”?

My goal in using time-outs is to teach my children that there are times in life when you become overwhelmed by a situation or by your surroundings, and a way to deal with that instead of “having a freak-out” is to briefly step away from the situation, calm yourself down and gather your thoughts, and then return. At this age, most of time I have to tell them when that time has come – “Molly, there is no yelling and throwing. You are going to sit out on the stair for 3 minutes because you yelled and threw your toys,” or “Ben, you need to calm down. You can go and take a time out in your room and look at books until you’re ready to stop yelling and whining,” – but my hope is that they start to recognize these times for themselves.

Just think how much simpler life would be if it were socially acceptable for us adults to say, “Could you excuse me? I’m going to take a moment to gather my thoughts.”

~ karyn