Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Magic Puffballs

You read that title correctly.  Magic, people.  Magic.

Let me tell you a little story.  Once there was a wonderful, funny, sweet little boy who always listened to his mommy and daddy.  He rarely (never?) threw a temper tantrum, and was very active and outgoing, but respectful and polite.  Then this little boy's mommy got pregnant.  With twins.  And things started to change.  When the twins arrived, the boy was transformed into the most stubborn child you have ever met.  He refused to listen to his mommy and would do things he wasn't supposed to right when she was in the middle of feeding both babies at once (because he is smart and knew she couldn't move for at least 15 minutes).  Even when she told him to stop, he wouldn't.  She punished him.  He laughed at her.  She reasoned with him.  He growled at her (literally).  The boy's mommy thought she was going to pull her hair out.  Then a dear friend told her about magic puffballs.

The deal is this - there is a large jar of puffballs somewhere in the house where it can be seen.  (Ours is sitting on the mantle in the living room.)

Not the classiest decor, but it works!

The child has a smaller jar of his/her own.  Every now and then, when you catch him doing something good, he gets a puffball.  Sometimes it can be a chore and he knows the reward is a puffball.  Other times you may just notice something nice and give it to him.  (For example, if I am busy with one baby and he helps the other by giving him a toy or making him laugh without me asking him to help.)

We have also now created a chore chart with things like take dirty dishes to the kitchen, feed the fish, pick up your toys when you are finished playing, etc.  For each chore he does, he gets a check mark.  One check mark can be "cashed in" for a tiny puffball.  Three check marks gets a medium puffball.  Five check marks gets a huge puffball.

When his jar is full, he gets to pick something out of the prize basket.  The prizes aren't huge - a Matchbox car, a "coupon" for a $0.99 App in the App Store, a leftover sticky hand from his birthday party treat bags - but something about all of those prizes together in one spot and getting to pick one really makes him excited.

Also - and this is key - when he does something wrong, a puffball gets taken away from his jar.  Sometimes there is a warning, like when he's playing and getting a little too loud.  Sometimes there isn't, like when he throws a toy (because he knows that is against the rules).

Are you skeptical?  I was.  But I'm telling you - it has worked for us.  The puffballs - they have power.  And I think it is a great visual reminder to make the right choice.  In a matter of a few days, I went from feeling like I lost control over my child to having my sweet, funny boy back.

Of course, my attitude also changed, because I felt more in control when I had a plan and there were set rules in place.  (As opposed to simply reacting in the moment - never good.)  And it was easier for him to follow rules when there were set consequences in front of him.  So maybe the puffballs aren't completely magic.  But they're close.

Do you have any "magic" discipline tricks?  I would love to hear them!  You know, in case the twins don't care about puffballs.   

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